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Driven by delta, COVID cases in Washington continue to rise, mainly among the unvaccinated

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Driven by delta, COVID cases in Washington continue to rise, mainly among the unvaccinated

The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Washington is doubling every 18 to 19 days, state health officials said at a Department of Health briefing last week. More than 94 percent of COVID-19 patients hospitalized between February 1 and August 3 were not fully vaccinated, according to Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah.

Inslee on FDA approval of Pfizer COVID vaccine

Gov. Jay Inslee released a statement following the Food & Drug Administration's approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the prevention of disease from COVID-19.

"The Food and Drug Administration's full authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is a great milestone in our fight against this deadly pandemic. People who get vaccinated should be more confident than ever in the safety and effectiveness of this vaccine. It does not just save the lives of individuals; it can save entire communities from further devastation.

"More than half of American adults have been fully vaccinated against COVID, either through the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines," Inslee said. "The result is that at least 170 million Americans, and more than 4 million Washingtonians, have robust protection from this virus. We can already see this in the fact that 95 percent of COVID hospitalizations in our state are among the unvaccinated. It is clear there is no safer, faster or more effective way to stop the transmission of this virus than through vaccination.

"Washingtonians can make informed decisions about getting this preventative treatment," Inslee added. "Talk to your health provider about whether this is the right decision for you."

Inslee Letter Reaffirms Washington's Support for Afghan Refugees

Gov. Jay Inslee sent a letter to President Joe Biden affirming Washington state's support for the people of Afghanistan and encouraging the president to continue accelerated evacuation efforts and to establish safety and support services for refugees.

The letter comes after over 100,000 people have been evacuated from the country since July and conditions on the ground continue to grow more dangerous following the fall of the Afghan government last week, including today's events that killed and wounded U.S. service members and Afghan civilians.

The letter reads, in part:

"Since 1975, Washington has welcomed nearly 150,000 refugees from 70 different countries. These remarkable individuals have contributed significantly to Washington's economy and culture; they and their descendants are now inextricably connected with our future prosperity. In the past decade, almost 5,000 of these refugees have hailed from Afghanistan. Carrying with them the trauma of war, they nonetheless contribute significantly to our state in varied professional fields, including home care, retail, healthcare, financial planning, and transportation. Many have served as essential workers, protecting the health of Washingtonians and enabling life to continue over the past 18 months. Washington remains ready to provide aid to Afghans who find themselves in peril after these last 20 years of conflict, just as these members of our community once did.

"Anticipating the arrival of new refugees, Washington's state and local agencies are mobilizing to coordinate resettlement services, financial assistance, and housing. Concurrently, a groundswell of support has arisen from companies, community organizations, and individuals, all offering to contribute time and resources to the relief effort. I am heartened by the news that Washington will have another opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to embrace those in need.

"While you consider all ways to rapidly airlift tens of thousands of people, I hope that you work to ensure services are readily available without regard to visa status - including resettlement programming, work authorization, and financial assistance - and to mitigate the imposition of costs or fees onto these vulnerable individuals."

Higher Education Proclamation Aligns with Recent Vaccine Requirement

Gov. Jay Inslee Friday updated Proclamation 20-12 (Higher Education). The updates include technical changes to align the higher education proclamation with the vaccination requirement proclamation (21-14.1), which requires that staff, faculty, contractors and volunteers at vaccinated institutions of higher education be fully vaccinated by October 18, 2021. The updated proclamation also removes the philosophical exemption option for students.

The amended proclamation is effective immediately.

Facial Coverings, Vaccine Requirements

Gov. Jay Inslee updated and extended two emergency proclamations that expand the vaccine requirement and the statewide face covering requirement. The expanded emergency orders are: proclamations 20-25, Washington Ready and 21-14, Vaccination Requirement.

"It has been a long pandemic, and our students and teachers have borne their own unique burdens throughout,"Inslee said at a press announcement."This virus is increasingly impacting young people, and those under the age of 12 still can't get the vaccine for themselves. We won't gamble with the health of our children, our educators and school staff, nor the health of the communities they serve."

Proclamation 20-25 is amended to adopt the most recent face covering order issued by the Secretary of Health, Order 20-03.4. Under this order, every person in Washington must wear a face covering when they are in a place that is generally accessible to any person from outside their household, subject to specific exceptions and exemptions.

Proclamartion 21-14 (Vaccination Requirement) is expanded to include all employees, on-site contractors and on-site volunteers at all public and private K-12 schools, public and private 2- and 4-year institutions of higher education, and early learning and child care programs serving children from multiple households.

The statewide mask requirement went into effect last week. Amendment to Proclamation 21-14 (Vaccination Requirement) is also in effect.

Clemency Relief Available

Washington state has instituted a new process to allow individuals on active community supervision for certain drug possession convictions to directly petition Gov. Jay Inslee to commute their sentences.

Inslee is prepared to issue unconditional commutations for eligible petitioners to eliminate any remaining community supervision involving drug possession convictions that have been invalidated by the Washington Supreme Court, as well as any obligation to pay on related legal financial obligations.

"I am committed to doing what I can to try to remedy the situation and assist the courts who are doing what they can to get through this backlog of cases," Inslee said. "I want to thank the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) and State Office of Public Defense (OPD) for stepping up to help me provide clemency relief to eligible petitioners."

This new path to commutations will allow expedited relief for thousands of individuals following February's state of Washington v. Blake decision, in which the Washington State Supreme Court declared Washington's simple drug possession statute unconstitutional.

There are currently over 1,200 individuals who remain on active DOC community supervision, solely for drug possession convictions held invalid by the Washington State Supreme Court in Blake. These individuals are now eligible to petition for a commutation through this new program. The DOC has begun disseminating petitions to its community correction officers to share with eligible individuals, and DOC will pass those completed petitions to OPD, which will process the petitions and send along proposed orders for the governor's signature. Since the first completed petitions arrived at the Office of the Governor, Inslee has already issued over 100 unconditional commutations, with additional orders being issued daily.

Wildfire State of Emergency

Gov. Jay Inslee updated the wildfire state of emergency proclamation.

The changes were made to clarify language around the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) hosting small wildfires on DOC property for religious purposes (like sweat lodges) and authorizes organic orchardists to perform "flaming" or "flame weeding," a technique by which farmers use a small torch to kill weeds at the base of fruit trees, rather than inorganic herbicides.

The update also extends the waiver of truck driver service hours rules for fuel carriers through mid-September. All other service hour exemptions remain the same, including expiration dates.

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