Inslee sets June 30th reopening goal
— Created May 19, 2021 by Kathy Reed
By Kathy Reed
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee expects the state to be fully reopened and free of most COVID restrictions June 30. In addition, every county in the state moved to Phase 3 of his Roadmap to Recovery plan Tuesday, all thanks to the vaccine, according to the governor.
“I am pleased to be able to announce this – it should give us a good path forward in reopening our state,” Inslee said in a press conference last Thursday. “And there is a chance we could reopen our state even sooner, if we can get 70 percent of eligible people over age 16 to initiate their vaccination by then.”
While the governor acknowledged there is still a long way to go, he said he feels confident the state can turn the page on the fight against the pandemic and will shift its method in order to make the June 30 deadline.
“It is a recognition that we are moving to a strategy of vaccinations as opposed to restrictions in our personal behavior,” he said. “We have a vaccine that is safe, that works, it’s absolutely free and we are now moving on to fully focus on that, so that we can save lives in our state.”
As of last week, Inslee said 57 percent of Washington residents had received at least the first dose of vaccine and 43.7 percent are fully vaccinated. He said state health officials are confident that with the plateauing, and even declining, rates of new infections, a full reopening is drawing closer.
“The bottom line is, most businesses will stay at 50 percent capacity for most indoor activities for now, but on June 30 that will be lifted to go back to 100 percent – a full reopening,” he said. “That means full capacity at restaurants, movie theaters, bowling alleys, you name it.”
Local health districts will retain the ability to impose restrictions should the need arise. The state’s push now is to encourage people to get their vaccine.
“Please get vaccinated,” said state Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah. “It protects you, your family, your loved ones and ultimately, it’s protecting the people around you. We want to do everything we can to encourage people and incentivize and just make the vaccine choice the right choice, the easy choice and the choice people will make, because ultimately that’s how we will end this pandemic.”
The governor also announced the state is following the Centers for Disease Control guidance on masking. Effective immediately, those who are fully vaccinated are no longer required to wear face masks for most activities. Masking is still be required at hospitals, doctor’s offices, long term care facilities, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, schools and on public transportation. Businesses retain the right to require customers and employees to wear masks.
Again, Inslee hopes this move will also encourage people to get vaccinated.
“For all the people who have been annoyed by the mask, this is a really good reason to get vaccinated,” he said. “This is your ticket to freedom. That shot is a ticket to freedom and I hope people will avail themselves to it.”
There is some skepticism people will just say they’ve gotten their vaccine when they haven’t. In that instance, businesses and venues are able to require proof of vaccination. People can present their vaccination card or they can download their vaccination record by going to myir.net and clicking on Washington state. Officials also suggest taking a photo with your phone of your vaccination record, so you have it if needed. Inslee said the state has no plans for any kind of official proof of vaccination.
“I am not anticipating doing a state sanctioned ‘passport,’ but individual venues have the right to ask for some degree of proof of vaccination and they have successfully, by and large, been able to implement that,” he said. “The Mariners have had success with it so I think this should be very viable.”
There is only one metric that could potentially derail the reopening plans.
“If ICU capacity exploded and got over 90 percent, we’d have to review that, but that’s the only caveat we’re announcing today,” he said.
Inslee also announced he expects schools across the state to be open at full capacity with in-person classes this fall.
Further announcements on vaccination incentives are likely to be announced sometime this week.