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.
Clean Fuel Standard, Climate
Commitment Act Pass State Senate
Last Thursday, the state Senate acted on two of Gov. Jay Inslee's priority climate bills. The Climate Commitment Act (CCA) would cap greenhouse gas emissions and invest in clean energy, climate resilience and transportation. This legislation would help the state meet goals set by the Legislature last session to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The bill focuses on equity, ensuring an environmental justice analysis for all investments made with the revenue generated from capping emissions. The CCA also takes the lessons learned from other state's programs into consideration, building in ways to further protect the communities who are the most impacted by the climate crisis. The bill now goes to the House for further consideration, with a hearing scheduled in the Energy and Environment Committee on Wednesday.
The Senate also passed HB 1091, a clean fuel standard, which would reduce emissions in the state's biggest polluting sector: transportation. This legislation would also help to grow clean energy jobs, with new potential biofuel sources and infrastructure investments all across the state. The bill is technology neutral, which means its goals can be met with electricity, biofuels or other emissions-reducing improvements.
Biofuels are already made in Washington, but residents lose out on much of the cleaner energy they provide. That's because the fuels are transported to places like Oregon, California and British Columbia where there are established clean fuel standards to help drive demand. Growing biofuels in Washington will grow jobs in clean energy, and will create new demand for waste products, giving farmers, restaurateurs and others a chance to increase their revenue.
Having previously passed the House, HB 1091 will now go to conference for the House and Senate to work out differences in language.
High Risk Worker Proclamation
Gov. Jay Inslee Thursday modified Proclamation 20-46 to allow employers additional flexibility to seek medical verification from employees and to shift employees to health coverage alternatives.
Leading the nation in protecting high-risk workers, Inslee initially permitted workers to self-attest to their medical status. With increased vaccination rates and increased provider capacity, this update allows employers to verify employees' underlying health conditions.
Proclamation 20-46.3 will continue to maintain the core principles of the original proclamation: workers who remain high risk will still benefit from job protection, access to alternative work arrangements, and eligibility for unemployment insurance and other forms of paid leave. Employers must provide employees with 14 days' notice of any planned changes, which will give employees time to work with their medical provider to obtain verification and to seek health coverage through their employer's COBRA plan, the Health Benefit Exchange, or private insurers.
Travel Restriction Updated
Gov. Jay Inslee Tuesday (April 6) updated Proclamation 20-83 to clarify that, in addition to requiring compliance with CDC restrictions related to international flight travel, all other types of travel, including intrastate travel, should also follow CDC guidance and requirements. This is a technical update to conform the proclamation to the Governor's previously revised travel advisory.
ICYMI: Inslee Letter to Congressional
Delegation on Infrastructure Priorities
In case you missed it: Gov. Jay Inslee sent a letter to members of the Washington congressional delegation that details his priorities for infrastructure and clean energy in federal infrastructure legislation through the president's "American Jobs Plan."
The letter reads, in part:
"I have asked my staff, our Cabinet, and executive branch agency leaders to identify strategic investment priorities to address unmet infrastructure needs in Washington state. They identified the following 13 areas as priorities:
Building Construction and Retrofits
Clean Water Infrastructure
Climate and Clean Energy
Communities and Housing
Early Learning and Education Facilities
Forest, Watershed Health and Water Resources
Hazard Mitigation and Resilience
Labor and Workforce
Salmon and Orca Recovery
"These strategic priorities represent traditional infrastructure needs as well as those that would benefit strongly from renewed federal investment. In each area, we welcome one-time funding, and identify throughout where new or increased sustained funding for annual programs and policy reforms can contribute to economic recovery, provide public benefit, and help address persistent systemic inequities."