OLYMPIA – Washington is on track to fully reopen by June 30, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday.
With COVID-19 cases on the decline, Inslee said projections show most spaces, including restaurants and businesses, could return to full capacity by the end of next month.
“This is one of the most remarkable days in our state’s history after a year-and-a-half-long struggle,” Inslee said in a news conference.
If 70% or more residents 16 and older get at least one dose before June 30, however, reopening could happen sooner. According to Department of Health data, 57% of those eligible have received one dose.
Vaccination trends show the state won’t reach its desired vaccination rate until June 30, Inslee said.
The state of emergency won’t end when things reopen, Inslee said, but the state is switching away from a restrictive approach for reopening to one that focuses on increasing vaccination rates.
“This is a huge step forward, and it’s a new chapter in our fight against COVID,” Inslee said.
If the statewide ICU capacity reaches 90% at any point, the state will roll back activities again, Inslee said. As of now, that is the only caveat the state is using for rolling counties back, meaning counties won’t be evaluated based on other metrics. Local jurisdictions, however, still maintain the ability to roll counties back if numbers start to increase.
Following new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Inslee also announced Thursday the state is rescinding its mask mandate in most indoor spaces for those who are fully vaccinated. Workplaces, schools or businesses can now choose whether they want to have a mask mandate.
Those who are not vaccinated will still be required to wear a mask in those spaces.
CDC guidance still calls for masks inside some crowded spaces such as hospitals, planes or prisons.
In Washington, those who are fully vaccinated can now go unmasked, not social distance at spectator events and enjoy gatherings with other fully vaccinated people.
Starting immediately, some additional activities with fewer restrictions and increased capacity will be allowed in the state. For example, there is no limit on the number of vaccinated attendees at indoor and outdoor spectator events.
The physical distancing and mask requirements are loosening for those who are vaccinated because “we know vaccines work,” Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah said.
To encourage people to get vaccinated sooner, the state is looking into some incentives for residents, Inslee said Thursday.
The Department of Commerce is working with the Association of Washington Businesses to fund gift cards to local businesses for those who are fully vaccinated. The Liquor and Cannabis Board is looking into allowing wineries and breweries to “buy a glass or a pint” for vaccinated customers.
Vaccinated attendees of Seattle Mariners’ home games could win prizes from local partners such as T-Mobile, Alaska Airlines or Costco.
Inslee also said he wasn’t completely ruling out some sort of “grand prize lottery” similar to what Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced Wednesday with his $1 million lottery drawings for vaccinated residents.
Laurel Demkovich's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.
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