Inslee sets June 30 for state reopening
Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday that the state is moving toward a statewide June 30 reopening date and that all counties in Washington will move to Phase 3 of the Healthy WA: Roadmap to Recovery reopening plan effective May 18 until June 30.
The announcement comes after the governor paused phase movement for two weeks to review an emerging flattening trend in statewide COVID-19 data. As of this week, the plateau observed in COVID-19 activity has become a decline.
"What we know now gives us the confidence to close this chapter in this pandemic and begin another," Inslee said at a press conference Thursday. "This next part of our fight to save lives in Washington will focus on increasing vaccination rates and continuing to monitor variants of concern as we move toward reopening our state."
The full reopening could happen earlier than June 30 if 70% or more of Washingtonians over the age of 16 initiate vaccination. Washington has administered over six million doses of vaccine, and 56 percent of Washingtonians have initiated vaccination.
Inslee also announced that Washington will fully adopt masking guidance issued by the CDC earlier this week. He stressed that this guidance is for fully vaccinated people -- meaning people who are two weeks removed from their second shot of Pfizer or Moderna, or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
12-year-olds Eligible for
Pfizer COVID Vaccinations
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in 12- to 15-year-olds, and the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices affirmed that decision on Wednesday.
The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup reviewed and affirmed the federal decisions Wednesday evening. Washington, Oregon and Nevada joined California's COVID-19 Scientific Safety Review Workgroup in October. The Workgroup, made up of nationally-acclaimed scientists with expertise in immunization and public health, has concurrently and independently reviewed the FDA's actions related to COVID-19 vaccines. It will continue to evaluate other COVID-19 vaccines as they go through the federal process.
"We are very pleased that teens can now be vaccinated. We have seen an increase in cases among this age group, and we can now make sure they are protected with the vaccine. This will further help us bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic," Gov. Jay Inslee said.
The governor's grandson Brody, 12, was among the first newly-eligible teens to receive the vaccine Thursday.
Inslee Inks Worker
Gov. Jay Inslee during a May 11 event in Yakima signed a package of bills that will increase worker safety protections, expand support for frontline workers during a public health emergency and grant overtime protections for farmworkers.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a new focus on the challenges faced by frontline workers," Inslee said. "They have kept our state moving through one of our most challenging times, working through personal hardship and challenges. The bills I am signing today represent an acknowledgement of the lessons we've learned and offer hope for a stronger path forward."
Among bills signed was governor-request legislation HB 1097, sponsored by Rep. Mike Sells, to protect workers who come forward about workplace hazards.
Workers are some of the first to notice and be affected when health and safety guidelines aren't being followed on the job. When those hazards are reported quickly, the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries is able to step in to protect workers. But when workers face retaliation for raising concerns -- or are pressured to not report at all -- they're at a higher risk of preventable workplace injuries.
These dangerous working conditions are more likely to impact Black and Latinx workers, who are often assigned more physically demanding and hazardous work.
The legislation also establishes a grant program for small employers during a public health emergency. The costs of additional safety and health measures during already tough economic conditions proved to be a significant challenge for employers. This program can be operationalized swiftly during any future emergencies.