Still ‘critical’ work left to do with Washington now fully reopened
After 15 long months of COVID-19 lockdowns, countless reopening phases, and even more news conferences, Washington state officially reopens today.
Marking the occasion, Gov. Jay Inslee sent out a lengthy statement Tuesday, praising the state’s work to end the pandemic, while signaling that there’s still work left to do to fully quash the virus’s presence in Washington.
“Washington has come a long way since the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the country was found in our state January 2020, and that is in no small part due to Washingtonians’ dedication and resilience in protecting themselves and their communities throughout the pandemic,” Inslee said. “It hasn’t been easy, but I’m proud of how Washingtonians came together, persevered and sacrificed to fight this virus, and now we’re finally in a place that is safe enough to end this chapter.”
“Continued success depends on everyone getting vaccinated and encouraging any loved one who has not yet received this lifesaving vaccine to do so, and quickly,” he added.
Washington Secretary of Health Umair Shah echoed Inslee’s sentiment, pointing out that the state’s Wednesday reopening “does not mean the virus is gone or our work is over.”
“Vaccination, testing and precautions like wearing masks if you are unvaccinated will be needed more than ever as businesses try to resume normal operations,” he cautioned, pointing out in a briefing last week that continuing to get people vaccinated remain “critical” headed into the summer months.
Reopening means there are no capacity restrictions on outdoor events. Large indoor gatherings will still be limited to 75% capacity unless the venue is verifying the vaccination status of attendees.
The state will continue to require masks for unvaccinated people in public places for the foreseeable future, while lifting the requirement for those who have been fully vaccinated. Businesses are also permitted to enact their own standards regardless of the vaccination status of customers.
There are also no physical distancing requirements or negative test requirements. Travel restrictions will follow the Centers for Disease Control guidance.
Despite Wednesday’s reopening, the state fell just short of its goal to have 70% of residents over the age of 16 receive at least one dose, reporting just 68.8% as of Tuesday morning. Federal data — which uses a different methodology than the state Department of Health — paints a different picture, estimating that 73.7% of Washingtonians ages 18 and up have initiated the vaccination process.
With restrictions lifted, the Mariners, Sounders, and Seahawks will all now be able to host a full complement of fans at home games. Some limitations remain in the place for the Seattle Storm, given that they play in an indoor venue.
The state will reevaluate the status of its reopening efforts on July 31. In the meantime, Inslee plans to travel to Tacoma, Spokane and Seattle on Wednesday and Thursday to celebrate the end of the state’s COVID restrictions.