On Thurs., Wa. Gov. Jay Inslee announced that the state is moving toward a statewide reopening date of June 30 and that all counties in state will move to Phase 3 of the Healthy WA: Roadmap to Recovery plan on May 18.
The announcement comes after the governor paused phase movement for two weeks to review an emerging flattening trend in statewide COVID-19 data. As of today, the plateau observed in COVID-19 activity has started to decline.
According to Inslee, the full reopening of the state could happen prior to June 30 if 70% or more of Washingtonians over the age of 16 initiate vaccination. Washington has administered over six million doses of vaccine, and 56 percent of Washingtonians have initiated vaccination.
“What we know now gives us the confidence to close this chapter in this pandemic and begin another,” said Inslee. “This next part of our fight to save lives in Washington will focus on increasing vaccination rates and continuing to monitor variants of concern as we move toward reopening our state.”
In the meantime, every county in the state will be in Phase 3 of Healthy Washington on May 18, including counties currently in Phase 2. Most indoor activities will be permitted to operate at 50% capacity until June 30 when most public spaces will return to full capacity.
In addition, many activities will be allowed with fewer restrictions and increased capacity for groups of fully vaccinated people.
Spectator events, such as indoor and outdoor sports, will no longer have limits on the number of vaccinated attendees. Small cruise ships with less than 250 passengers may sail if the full crew and 95% of passengers are fully vaccinated.
During the press conference, Inslee also announced that starting this fall for the 2021–2022 school year, schools will be expected to offer full-time, in-person learning for all students and a remote learning option for students who need it. He also said that they state will fully adopt the new masking guidance recently issued by the CDC, and emphasized that the guidance is for fully vaccinated people — meaning people who are two weeks removed from their second shot of Pfizer or Moderna or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
However, the Governors announcement does not mean that Washington’s state of emergency will lift on June 30. It also does not guarantee a full reopening if the state’s COVID-19 data changes. According to officials, if the statewide ICU capacity reaches 90% at any point, activities will be rolled back again.
“While we are seeing hopeful signs in our data, our work is not yet done. Now is the time for everyone to get their vaccine and help others do the same,” said Umair Shah, MD, MPH, secretary, Department of Health. “Every person who gets vaccinated brings us one step closer to reopening and staying open.”