As Washington's COVID-19 response continues to evolve, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) released the state's new long-term ForWArd plan to keep people safe and healthy as we co-exist with COVID-19 for the foreseeable future.
To date, more than 13 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered across Washington, leading to one of the highest state vaccination rates in the country and helping the state maintain one of the lowest COVID-19 death rates among states. The ForWArd plan outlines ongoing actions that will allow communities and state leaders to prioritize prevention and readiness for this new phase of the pandemic.
The long-term response plan prioritizes engagement and empowerment of people so everyone has the necessary information and guidance to stay safe; prevention through vaccines, tests and masks; and system readiness that ensures public health leaders and providers can anticipate and respond to changing transmission trends.
"While we don't know when the pandemic will truly end, we do know how to protect ourselves and our communities from COVID-19. DOH is committed to following a path to recovery by empowering people, organizations, and businesses to come together to protect each other, keep our economy strong, our schools open, and our state moving forward," said DOH Deputy Secretary Lacy Fehrenbach.
Inslee Inks Abortion Access Bill,
Policing Law at Bill Signings
Following the end of the 2022 legislative session, Gov. Jay Inslee will be taking action over the next couple weeks on more than 300 bills sent to his desk.
Among the notable bills Inslee signed this week was the Affirm Washington Abortion Access Act, sponsored by Rep. My-Linh Thai. With the shift in our nation's Supreme Court, several states - including Texas and Washington's neighboring state, Idaho - have been emboldened to pass dangerous and draconian bills that will leave millions of people in the country without access to safe abortion care. Washington state has repeatedly affirmed patients' right to abortion and reproductive health care and continues to do so. This bill expands access to abortion care and prohibits legal action against people seeking an abortion and their medical providers.
The law takes effect in June. Similar laws are also awaiting action in California, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
This governor also signed the so-called "Terry Stop Bill" that clarifies when and how law enforcement can use physical force to stop a person from fleeing a crime scene. An officer may use force to prevent a suspect from walking or running away from an investigative stop so long as the suspect was told they were not free to leave.
The governor also signed the Diaper Need Act, sponsored by Sen. T'wina Nobles. The bill passed unanimously from the Legislature. It directs the Department of Social and Health Services to provide assistance to help pay for diapers for low-income parents and caregivers who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and have children under the age of three.
New Economic Development Program Focuses on High-Growth
Industry Clusters with Job Opportunities Across the State
The state Department of Commerce earlier this year launched a new Innovation Cluster Accelerator program that can help communities attract or grow high-growth industries. On Monday, the state Department of Commerce announced four additional industry-led consortia that were awarded Innovation Cluster Accelerator grants. These new grantees join the five selected earlier this year that focused on 5G and edge computing, quantum computing, hydrogen, clean buildings and advanced nuclear power technology.
The four additional consortia are:
Evergreen Bioscience, led by Greater Spokane, Inc. - working to make the Intermountain Northwest and Washington State a magnet for companies providing and consuming expert life and health science contract research, development, and manufacturing services of medicines and medical devices by enhancing workforce development and services to pharmaceutical and medical devices companies.
Pacific Northwest Aerospace Cluster, led by Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance - advancing Pacific Northwest aerospace manufacturing competitiveness through technology innovation, sustainable manufacturing, supply chain mapping, workforce development and marketing.
Sustainable Aerospace Technologies and Energies (SATE) Cluster, led by Aerospace Futures Alliance (AFA) - advancing aviation's global fight against climate change by leading the research, development and deployment of sustainable aviation fuels, electrified aircraft and hydrogen-powered aviation.
Washington Autonomous Vehicle Cluster (WAV-C), led by the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance-accelerating the advancement of unpiloted and autonomous vehicles, with an initial focus on the growing need for waterborne craft
Each will receive $500,000, along with strategic guidance and support to build and run an innovation cluster in a targeted industry.
Inslee Statement on New EPA
Actions on Clean Transportation
Gov. Jay Inslee released a statement in response to the Biden administration's announcement of new Environmental Protection Agency regulations and funding to promote cleaner trucks and buses.
"There's no question our transportation system is vital for our economy and quality of life. It also happens to be a significant source of air pollution that exacerbates devastating health inequities among lower-income communities and communities of color. I applaud the Biden-Harris administration and the Environmental Protection Agency for taking these important steps to modernize heavy-duty vehicles and provide cleaner options for schools around the country. Congratulations to the Chimacum, Evergreen, Granger and Port Townsend school districts that are among the first to benefit from the infrastructure bill's investments in cleaning up our school buses.
"States must also take action to promote cleaner, electric options for businesses and families. Cars, trucks, buses, ferries and other vehicles are the largest source of greenhouse gases in Washington. Our reliance on fossil fuels not only harms the health of our people and our planet, we are also seeing how it makes us vulnerable in times of geopolitical conflict.
"State legislators are working on a transportation package now - funded in part by the revenues from the milestone passage of our state's cap-and-invest program in 2021 -- that includes historic investments in carbon-reducing transportation options such as transit and hybrid-electric ferries. I know legislators can get this over the finish line, and I look forward to celebrating this as one of the session's big wins. The Legislature also has an opportunity to help thousands more families make the switch from fossil-fueled vehicles to electric. I hope they take this work on with the urgency it requires. We have no time to waste in weaning ourselves off our reliance to oil and gas that pollutes our communities."
List of Washington school districts awards from the 2021 Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) School Bus Rebate program:
Chimacum School District - $40,000 to fund two buses
Evergreen School District - $200,000 to fund 10 buses
Granger School District - $20,000 to fund one bus
Port Townsend School District - $40,000 to fund two buses