State to be re-opened June 30
Just hours after the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxed its guidelines, allowing people who’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID to go without masks, Gov. Jay Inslee followed suit, declaring the same option for people in Washington, whether indoors or out.
Inslee also announced plans for a full reopening of the state on June 30 — with all businesses at 100% capacity. That could happen even earlier if 70% or more of Washingtonians over the age of 16 initiate vaccination, he said.
Inslee’s announcement on Thursday (May 13) came after a two-week pause that kept three counties in Phase 2 of reopening. But what the state’s health officer called “a possible plateau” two weeks ago became a true decline in COVID infections, Inslee said.
Individual businesses can still require customers to wear masks, and some around the valley haven’t changed their policy. Masks are still required in health care settings like hospitals and clinics, in schools, and on public transportation.
As of Tuesday (May 18), all counties were back in Phase 3, including Ferry County, which the regional health district had moved to Phase 2 after a major COVID outbreak in Republic.
Inslee also announced that all schools will be expected to offer full-time, in-person learning for all students starting in the fall. Schools will provide remote learning accommodations for students who need it, he said.
The state relaxed restrictions for additional activities. Indoor and outdoor sports will no longer have limits on the number of vaccinated spectators. Vaccinated individuals can sing and can perform on woodwind and brass instruments without facial coverings.
Choirs and congregations in places of worship can sing, with at least 6 feet between singers. Vaccinated people can sing without masks, but unvaccinated people still need a mask, according to the state guidance released last week.
The state is focusing on vaccinations, which are now authorized for people age 12 and older. “To fully reopen and protect our communities, we want to see at least 70% of eligible Washington residents get their first dose. Right now, we’re at about 59%, so we still have a ways to go,” Secretary of Health Umair Shah said.
“The next chapter of recovery from this pandemic is within our reach, and we can get there faster with vaccination,” said Lacy Fehrenbach, the state’s deputy secretary for COVID-19 response. “Getting our children and communities vaccinated now will set us up for a safer and more normal summer and beyond in Washington state.”
Washington is still under a state of emergency, which allows the governor to curtail business and social activities if ICU capacity reaches 90%.
Okanogan County recorded 61 new COVID cases in the week ending May 17, including one in Winthrop. The county reported one more death from the disease, of a man in his 70s, bringing the county’s losses to 37 since the start of the pandemic.
The incidence rate per 100,000 population has climbed over the week from 192 to 223, the highest in several months.
Almost 38% of county residents have been vaccinated.