Gov. Jay Inslee last Tuesday (May 4) announced a two-week pause on movement in the Healthy Washington: Roadmap to Recovery reopening plan. Under the pause, every county will remain in its current phase. At the end of two weeks, each county will be re-evaluated.
The decision was made in consultation with the Department of Health, and reflects current data suggesting Washington's fourth wave has hit a plateau. Case counts and hospitalizations remain high, but the plateau suggests continued adherence to public health guidance and vaccinations could help the state turn the corner.
"We are at the intersection of progress and failure, and we cannot veer from the path of progress," Inslee said Tuesday. "Our economy is beginning to show early signs of growth thanks to some of our great legislative victories and we know vaccines are the ticket to further reopening -- if we adhere to public health until enough people are vaccinated."
For the past several weeks, epidemiologists have been following the state's fourth COVID-19 wave, which now appears to be leveling out. The fourth wave has been less severe and case counts and mortalities have not been tied in rates of increase as they have in the past.
Gov. Jay Inslee Friday approved an update to the guidance documents for Proclamation 20-26, Operations and Visitation, for long term care facilities.
The guidance documents will be amended to align with recent CDC recommendations regarding what infection control practices should be in place when planning for or allowing communal activities, such as group activities or communal dining. The changes will allow residents who are fully vaccinated to choose to have close contact with other fully vaccinated individuals and to not wear source control during the activity. This change reflects the continuing progression towards returning long term care facilities to a more normal state by allowing residents to have greater contact with their fellow residents, reducing the stark social isolation many have faced during the past year.
The changes are effective immediately. The Department of Social Health Services, in partnership with the Department of Health, will also issue a guidance letter to long term care providers notifying them of this change.
Gov. Jay Inslee released a video and statement Sunday on the successes of the 2021 legislative session. The 105-day session ended on Sunday evening with major advances on several of the governor's key priorities.
"The Legislature has just wrapped up an historic and truly extraordinary session. It has been the most innovative, having produced unprecedented and legacy making advances as all-encompassing as any session in the last 25 years," Inslee said. "Washingtonians received progress on climate, progress on equity, progress on our tax system, and progress protecting our workers and families, and more. And all of this was accomplished safely as the COVID-19 pandemic continues."
J & J COVID Vaccine
Gov. Jay Inslee Saturday announced the authorization of resuming the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine by the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup.
The announcement comes after the FDA and CDC also authorized the restart of the J&J COVID vaccine. The Western States Workgroup, composed of vaccine experts from Washington, California, Oregon and Nevada, has met to review the data and analysis to ensure the safety and efficacy of all FDA-authorized vaccines.
Last Thursday, Gov. Jay Inslee conducted his first regular in-person media availability with the Olympia press corps since March 2020, when the pandemic forced press conferences to go virtual. The event was held outside the governor's residence, where Inslee warned of rising cases and encouraged Washingtonians to spend time where the virus struggles to transmit: Outdoors.
"The virus spreads far more easily indoors," Inslee said. "We're asking everyone to think about their actions for the next few weeks especially so we can get through this together. Let's be vested with a can-do spirit here to halt a creeping fourth wave of COVID. Take it outside, mask up, keep your distance."
The latest trends show COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to increase. The state is averaging more than 1,000 new cases a day, up from 700 cases a day in February. Daily hospitalizations in March were in the 30s, but this month have crept into daily averages in the 40s.
Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday updated and clarified the criteria for counties to stay in Phase 3 of the state's Healthy Washington pandemic reopening plan.
Under the plan that took effect March 22, counties are individually evaluated every three weeks. The first evaluation occurs this coming Monday, and changes to a county's phase status take effect Friday, April 16. In addition to being individually evaluated, large and small counties have different sets of appropriate criteria based on case counts and hospitalizations.
In advance of each county's evaluation on Monday to determine its phase, the governor established that:
In order to move down one phase a county must fail both metrics for case counts and hospitalizations. Under the previous plan, a county only needed to fail one metric to move back one phase.
The spectator events guidance is updated to make clear what is allowed for counties in Phase 2 and how these events are related to school graduation ceremonies.
"Given the incredible progress on vaccinations and our focus on protecting people from severe illness, we believe analyzing and requiring both metrics together is the right approach to make sure we're considering the connection between COVID cases and our medical system and hospitalizations," Inslee said.
Case counts and hospitalizations are rising in Washington. This is a concerning trend that is also happening nationally. Vaccines are making a difference in this fight, but millions of Washingtonians still need to be fully vaccinated. About 60,000 doses are being administered daily in Washington, but the governor urged all Washingtonians to be mindful of physical distance, wear masks, and keep gatherings small until COVID activity becomes less of a threat.
Following Monday's evaluation, the next Healthy Washington - Roadmap to Recovery plan evaluation will occur May 3.
Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday announced that effective April 15, all Washingtonians age 16 and up will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.
Over the past four months, since Washington began administering doses of the vaccination, the state has followed a tiered eligibility system, beginning with those most at risk of hospitalization and death.
Working Washington Grants
The Washington State Department of Commerce opened applications for Working Washington Grants: Round 4 on March 29. This newest grant round focuses on brick and mortar businesses most directly impacted by COVID-19 public health measures.
Last Friday marked the 75th day of this year's 105-day legislative session and most legislation without a fiscal impact needed to pass out of committee this week to be considered further.
On Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee approved legislation to strengthen the Office of Cybersecurity's ability to protect data across all state agencies. The bill now goes to the House Rules Committee, where it can be pulled to the floor for a vote.
On Friday, legislation that would move Washington state towards regional health districts was voted out of the Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee. The bill, which would improve public health by increasing resources and coordination, now goes to the Senate Ways and Means Committee for further consideration.
More governor-request legislation is scheduled for hearings in the coming days, with a low carbon fuel standard scheduled for a Hearing in Senate Ways and Means on Saturday, and a hearing on establishing an office of independent Investigations in Ways and Means on Tuesday.
The House and Senate also announced their 2021-2023 Budget proposals last week. The 105-day legislative session is set to run through the end of April.
1 Million Washingtonians Fully
Vaccinated; 3 Million Doses Given
Last week, the state crossed two major milestones in its ongoing COVID-19 vaccination efforts: The 1 millionth Washingtonian became fully vaccinated, and the state surpassed more than 3 million doses administered.
Last Friday, Gov. Jay Inslee rescinded his November 2020 Travel Advisory and is advising Washingtonians and others visiting Washington to comply with the Center for Disease Control's current COVID-19 travel advisory guidance.
On November 13, 2020, due to the increasing incidence of COVID-19 in many states and countries, Inslee issued a travel advisory for persons arriving in Washington from out of state, and Washingtonians returning from other states or countries. That document advised: (1) those returning to Washington from other states or countries should self-quarantine for 14 days after arrival; and, (2) it encouraged Washingtonians to avoid non-essential out-of-state travel.
Current CDC guidance is more robust, thorough, and specific than the November 2020 travel advisory, and is regularly updated to reflect the latest science, optimal safety practices and protocols, and the current COVID-19 situation here and abroad.
Inslee Makes Extensions
Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday that the statewide eviction moratorium will be extended through June 30, as well as upcoming vaccine eligibility expansion, including restaurant workers and Washingtonians 60 and older. He also announced that effective immediately, many visitations at long-term care facilities and nursing homes may resume.
In addition, the state Department of Health (DOH) launched a new web tool to help people find open vaccination appointments near them.
"It's another great day to be from Washington state," Inslee said Thursday. "From protecting people's housing to helping people see their loved ones and getting more Washingtonians vaccinated, we're continuing to move forward toward recovery."
State reopening plan moving to Phase 3 Monday
Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday that the state's Healthy Washington: Roadmap to Recovery will be transitioning from a regional approach to a county-by-county evaluation process. The governor also announced a new third phase of the Roadmap, a return for in-person spectators for professional and high school sports.
Effective March 22, the entire state will enter Phase 3.
Sports guidance will change in Phase 3 to allow in-person spectators at events for the first time in a year. Spectators will be allowed to attend outdoor venues with permanent seating with capacity capped at 25 percent. The change affects both professional and high school sports, as well as motorsports, rodeos, and other outdoor spectator events. Social distancing and facial covering are still required.
Next Tier of Vaccine
Eligibility Coming Earlier
On Thursday, the governor announced that every group prioritized in Phase 1B, Tier 2 will be eligible for their COVID vaccine starting Wednesday, March 17.
This includes workers in agriculture, food processing, grocery stores, public transit, firefighters and law enforcement, among others. Phase 1B, Tier 2 also includes people over the age of 16 who are pregnant or have a disability that puts them at high-risk.
The state will continue to ensure those eligible in earlier phases who have not yet been administered doses have space to be vaccinated, even as more people become eligible.
Gov. Jay Inslee updated proclamation 20-83 regarding quarantine requirements for air travel. Inslee also released new proclamations related to winter weather and the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19- Restrictions on Travelers
Amends Proclamation 20-83, which required air passengers to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival from countries in which COVID-19 variants were detected. The amended order requires all air passengers to comply with the requirements ordered by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when traveling from outside the U.S. to Washington. The CDC currently requires all such air passengers to obtain a negative viral COVID test within 3 days of travel or to present proof of recovery from COVID-19. For other types of travel, the Governor's travel advisory remains in place. This proclamation will remain in effect through the state of emergency established in Proclamation 20-05.
COVID-19 - Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council (EFSEC) Informational Public Hearings
This proclamation allows EFSEC to remotely conduct its required informational public hearings regarding new energy project siting proposals, under RCW 80.50.090(1). Though allowing for remote informational public hearings, the order requires EFSEC to provide robust public participation options so that the public may observe the hearing in real time and offer public comment. This order goes into effect March 12, 2021, and expires on April 11, 2021, unless further extended.
Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday regions would not move backward in the Healthy Washington phased reopening plan, and that the pause would last at least several weeks.
All eight regions have been in Phase 2 since Feb. 14, which allows for more activities including indoor dining at 25 percent capacity. Future phases are still being discussed by state leaders in partnership with stakeholders in local government, business and labor.
Inslee said he is optimistic about current trends in COVID-19 activity, particularly the steady decrease in cases and hospitalizations since the pandemic's third wave peaked toward the end of 2020. These trends coincide with progress in another important front in the battle against COVID-19: More than 1.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Washington.
A Third Vaccine
The U.S. is getting a third vaccine to prevent COVID-19. Saturday, the Food and Drug Administration cleared a Johnson & Johnson shot that works with just one dose instead of two. One dose was 85 percent protective against the most severe COVID-19 illness, in a massive study that spanned three continents. In the USA, the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna shots were 95 percent protective against symptomatic COVID-19. J&J's one-dose effectiveness of 85 percent against severe COVID-19 dropped to 66 percent when moderate cases were rolled in, according to The Associated Press.
Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday signed House Bill 1368, which appropriates $2.2 billion in federal funding that has been allocated to states in response to the ongoing COVID emergency. The legislation takes effect immediately.
"Our focus this year is relief, recovery and resilience, and this legislation will help us make tremendous progress in all of those areas. Washingtonians have been exemplary in helping limit the spread of COVID-19, but it has not come without its economic and emotional costs," Inslee said. "The process of getting to a post-pandemic era has already begun, and we will come out of this stronger because of legislation like what I am signing today."
In December, Inslee asked the Legislature to act early on COVID relief legislation, and the Legislature responded with HB 1368, which addresses a host of needs facing Washingtonians right now.
The House legislation was sponsored by Rep. Timm Ormsby. Sen. Christine Rolfes sponsored companion legislation in the Senate.
"Local communities have done their part to keep us all safe during this pandemic. This bill is just one step the Legislature will take this year to support those who are struggling most in our state," said Ormsby, chair of the House Appropriations Committee. "As we approach the budgeting process, we are keeping our focus on investments that equitably address the needs in struggling communities and help families and small businesses get through this current stage of the pandemic."
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