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."
Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday that five more regions will move to Phase 2 of the state's reopening plan, Healthy Washington - Roadmap to Recovery. As of Sunday, seven of the eight regions in the state will be in Phase 2. These regions represent more than 90 percent of the state's population.
The following regions will stay in Phase 1: South Central
The following regions will stay in Phase 2: Puget Sound, West
The following regions will move from Phase 1 to Phase 2: East, North, North Central, Northwest, Southwest
The following regions will move from Phase 2 to Phase 1: None
Regions are required to meet three of the four public health metrics to progress to Phase 2. The South Central region, the only one to remain in Phase 1, currently meets two of the four metrics.
There is still no future razor clam dates to be announced until domoic acid levels in razor clams drop below the action level.
"We have no projections of when that might be; however, we do know that in three of the four major domoic acid events that occurred in the fall (of)1991-92, 1997-98 and 2002-03, domoic acid levels in razor clams remained evaluated through the end of the season," according to WDFW Coastal Shellfish Manager Dan Ayres early Thursday morning. "We will continue to test every two weeks."
Listed below are the most recent marine toxin levels, as announced by the Washington Department of Health (WDOH).
According to Ayres, before a beach can be opened for the harvest of razor clams, WDOH protocol requires that all razor clam samples collected from that beach must test under the action level (20 ppm for domoic acid; 80 µg/100g for PSP; and 16 µg/100g for DSP) on both of two required sample collections, that must be spaced 7 to 10 days apart.
Gov. Jay Inslee sent a letter to the president of the Washington Education Association (WEA) detailing his support for educators and students to return to in-person learning. Inslee noted the progress being made right now in some Washington districts.
The letter to WEA reads, in part:
"The experience of Washington state educators in this regard should be given the highest consideration in this discussion. Educators have demonstrated rather conclusively that onsite instruction can be done with reasonable safety. Your members have already been working on site with over 200,000 students during the last several months at a variety of public schools across the state that are diverse geographically and demographically. Students are learning on-site at elementary schools, middle schools and high schools, and they have been successful because of the professionalism, dedication, and commitment of educators and school staff to their students."
No future razor clam dates will be announced until domoic acid levels in razor clams drop below the action level. That's the word from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
"We have no projections of when that might be," WDFW Coastal Shellfish Manager Dan Ayres said last Wednesday afternoon. "We will continue to test every two weeks.
"As we reported earlier this month, razor clams are following the historical pattern of slowly depurating (losing) domoic acid," Ayres said. "We also are observing the levels 'bounce around' some, as they have in past events. This is a result of the individual 12 clams we harvest when we are collecting samples. The toxin 'load' can vary greatly between individual clams.
"The laboratory protocol requires the clams to be cleaned and then the meat from all 12 (per area) are blended together," Ayres continued. "Then a sample of that mixture is analyzed and one result is reported for that area."
During a press conference last week, Governor Jay Inslee announced that the West and Puget Sound Regions have moved to Phase 2 on Monday, February 1. These two regions include Pacific, Grays Harbor, Lewis, Thurston, Snohomish, King, and Pierce counties. Each of these counties have met the metrics that Inslee put into place at the beginning of January.
Last week, both chambers of the Legislature approved governor-requested legislation SB 5061, which would increase minimum unemployment benefits for workers and provide $1.7 billion in unemployment tax relief for businesses. The bill received strong bipartisan support, and the governor expects to sign it next week.
This week, the Legislature is set to take action on a number of other governor-request bills. Today, the Labor and Workplace Standards Committee is scheduled to vote on HB 1097, which would help ensure safer working conditions and better protections for workers.
Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee will hear HB1091, which would establish a clean fuels program in Washington. They're also scheduled to take executive action on HB 1016, which would establish Juneteenth as a Washington state holiday.
HB 1267, governor-request legislation sponsored by Rep. Debra Entenman, is also scheduled for executive action that day in the House Public Safety Committee. The legislation would create an Office of Independent Investigations to conduct investigations into police use of excessive force.
The 105-day legislative session is set to run through the end of April.
In an effort to increase legislative transparency, Rep. Joel McEntire (R-Cathlamet) introduced legislation last Tuesday (Jan. 19) to keep legislators from using "ghost bills."
House Bill 1324 would eliminate the practice of legislators using title-only bills, also referred to as "ghost bills." Title-only bills are introduced with no content, amended later with the bill text and rushed through the legislative process before the public has a chance to review or comment on the legislation.
"While this is my first legislative session, I am familiar with title-only bills. As I followed the Legislature the last few years, it received a lot of media attention, and rightfully so," McEntire said. "This is about ensuring our citizens have access and opportunity to provide input on legislation before it is passed."
Two cases of the new coronavirus variant found in the United Kingdom have been detected in Snohomish County, state health officials announced Saturday. The variant spreads more easily and more quickly than the original strain.
Through mid-day Saturday there were 1,987 coronavirus cases reported in Washington, bringing the state total to 300,198. There have been 4,114 deaths and 17,128 people hospitalized, according to the state Dept. of Health. On Friday, there were 2,174 COVID-19 cases and 49 deaths reported in the state. On
Thursday there were 2,223 cases and 125 deaths from COVID-19 in Washington.
Washington's Department of Health has put out information about the expected vaccination dates. This timeline is adjustable in case the state runs into any problems with distribution. According to the Pacific County Department of Health said that Priority Group B is the largest group so far.
"We are getting new information on this every day," said PCDOH Director Katie Lindstrom. "I expect that we will get news very soon about Phase B. I also expect that the order of it could change, but as of right now this is where we are at."
Priority Group B1, which is the next group, is expected to start at the end of January 2021. This group includes all people 70 years or older and all people 50 years or older in multigenerational households.
Gov. Jay Inslee released a statement last Tuesday (Jan. 12) announcing the extension of actions taken by the state to ensure the safety and security of Washingtonians, legislators, state employees and the buildings of the Capitol Campus.
"Based on the recommendation of the Washington State Patrol, current security measures on the Capitol Campus will remain in place through federal Inauguration Day (Wednesday, Jan. 20) due to evolving intelligence on security threats posed in all 50 state capitals following the violence in our nation's capital, as well as recent illegal and dangerous actions associated with non-permitted events on our state's Capitol Campus.
"The Washington National Guard will continue to support the security focused efforts of the Washington State Patrol and the temporary fencing that has been placed around the restricted area of the West Campus.
"These unfortunate, necessary security precautions could last longer, but we are hopeful that we will soon see political temperatures cool and threat levels come down, bringing a related easing of these restrictions.
Governor Jay Inslee announced a new COVID-19 phased recovery plan last week called "Healthy Washington - Roadmap to Recovery." This began on January 11, and reset every county into Phase 1. According to this new plan, retail occupancy remains at 25%. It also allows for limited live entertainment and fitness center activities.
"No one was untouched by the effects of the pandemic in 2020; many have and continue to suffer through no fault of their own," said Inslee during a press conference on Tuesday, January 5. "We aren't out of this yet, but we are close to turning the corner on COVID-19 and this third wave of infection."
This new plan is laid out in hopes that it will avoid overwhelming the state's health care systems. The new recovery system aims to safely ease some restrictions while ensuring care for Washingtonians and encouraging economic recovery.
On Wednesday, January 6, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) released the definitions of the next phase of COVID-19 vaccinations. The next group, Phase 1B, is broken up into Tiers. The state is not ready to move into vaccinating Phase 1B since they are still finishing up vaccinating 1A.
Phase 1B include:
Phase 1B1 (Tier 1)
You may want to accept your $600 relief check or more as a much-needed post-Christmas gift - even though the amount is roughly half of what the first round of stimulus checks provided. The relief/stimulus checks are already appearing in bank accounts for many Americans, The payments are part of a $900 billion pandemic relief package that was approved in Congress in December.
This current round provides $600 per adult in a household, and $600 per child, which is up from $500 in the spring but like the first round of stimulus payments, an age limit is in place and parents aren't getting the extra $600 for dependents who are 17 and older; and there is no cap on the number of children a household can claim.
Gov. Jay Inslee extended the statewide ban on indoor dining and the closure of gyms and fitness centers through Jan. 11, which moves the restrictions back to at least Jan. 11. Washington's case and hospitalization numbers have leveled off since Inslee's closure orders, but are higher than at any point before November.
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