Gov. Inslee: Vaccine eligibility in Washington expands again March 31
Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday, among other pandemic related changes, that the state will open up COVID-19 vaccine eligibility for the next two tiers earlier than originally expected.
Due to increasing doses and vaccination rate increases, COVID vaccine eligibility will open to nearly two million more eligible Washingtonians on March 31, 2021. There are about three million eligible Washingtonians as of today.
The expansion on March 31 opens appointments for: anyone with two or more comorbidities; anyone between the ages of 60 and 64; anyone living in congregate settings, such as correctional facilities, group homes for those with disabilities, and those experiencing homelessness; and any additional workers in congregate settings, including restaurants and food service workers, manufacturing, and construction.
Anyone who is eligible now or was eligible in an earlier tier will remain eligible.
“This timeline is much faster than we would have predicted a couple of months ago,” Inslee said.
Last week, President Biden set a May 1 target to have all adults in the United States eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
For more information on eligibility, use the Phase Finder tool from the state Department of Health. Phase Finder will let you know if you are eligible, but does not schedule an appointment.
Long-term care visitation rules
Due to increasing vaccination rates, the governor said Thursday that it’s now safe to resume visitation for the state’s nursing home and long-term care facilities.
Outdoor visitation remains the safest and preferred option, but indoor visitation will be allowed for visitors or residents who are fully vaccinated. Compassionate care visits will remain allowed, regardless of vaccination status.
Eviction moratorium extended
Also announced by Gov. Inslee on Thursday is an extension of the current state eviction moratorium. This is now extended through June 30, 2021.
Under two other proclamations signed by the governor, the utility shutoff moratorium is extended through July 31, 2021, and debt garnishment on federal pandemic payments is still prohibited.
New tool to help find vaccine appointments
As Washingtonians have continued to report having difficulty securing appointments, and after many have shared concerns around a lack of information, the state Department of Health launched a new Vaccine Locator tool that aims to simplify the appointment scheduling process. It will display all available appointments in one place, and is available in multiple languages.
“We think this is going to be a substantial help to folks,” Inslee said about the tool.
With help from Amazon, the state’s vaccine hotline will have more customer service representatives as well in order to help those who are unable to use online scheduling tools to make an appointment.
Gov. Inslee shared that the nonprofit Challenge Seattle will be publishing a playbook for mass vaccination sites that will help public and private organizations running or planning clinics. This will be a free resource for how to handle logistics, operations, and communications. The playbook will centralize best practices and lessons learned through the vaccine administration process in Washington state.