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Healthy Washington enters pause as COVID activity statewide plateaus

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Gov. Jay Inslee last Tuesday (May 4) announced a two-week pause on movement in the Healthy Washington: Roadmap to Recovery reopening plan. Under the pause, every county will remain in its current phase. At the end of two weeks, each county will be re-evaluated.

The decision was made in consultation with the Department of Health, and reflects current data suggesting Washington's fourth wave has hit a plateau. Case counts and hospitalizations remain high, but the plateau suggests continued adherence to public health guidance and vaccinations could help the state turn the corner.

"We are at the intersection of progress and failure, and we cannot veer from the path of progress," Inslee said Tuesday. "Our economy is beginning to show early signs of growth thanks to some of our great legislative victories and we know vaccines are the ticket to further reopening  --  if we adhere to public health until enough people are vaccinated."

For the past several weeks, epidemiologists have been following the state's fourth COVID-19 wave, which now appears to be leveling out. The fourth wave has been less severe and case counts and mortalities have not been tied in rates of increase as they have in the past.

The changes in data throughout the fourth wave have been attributed to increasing vaccination rates, shortening hospital stays and lessening the severity of the illness. The state's early vaccine prioritization has also been tied to improved data and decreasing mortality rates in the state's most vulnerable populations.

Vaccines are now available to all Washingtonians 16 and up. To find an appointment, visit VaccineLocator.doh.wa.gov.

Inslee Signs Fair Start for Kids Act

to Expand Access to Child Care

Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday signed SB 5237, the Fair Start for Kids Act. The legislation will make child care more accessible and affordable for families across Washington state.

The governor signed the bill at a Childcare Provider Awareness Day celebration with legislators and early learning advocates. Last week, the governor signed a proclamation acknowledging May 7 as the official day of recognition for child care providers.

"I'm proud to recognize the incredible work that our child care providers have done over the last year and before the pandemic," Inslee said Friday. "But we need to do more than just recognize their efforts, which is why I'm signing the Fair Start for Kids Act. This legislation will help build a better child care system for workers, families and the whole state of Washington."

The Fair Start for Kids Act takes a multi-pronged approach at solving the child care crisis in Washington state. The legislation will:

* Reduce copays and expand eligibility for the Working Connections Child Care and the Early Childhood Education and Assistance programs.

* Make capital investments to expand existing child care facilities and build new facilities.

* Strengthen child care programs by expanding access to support services, mental health consultations, dual language supports and more.

* Grow recruitment and retention for child care businesses by increasing subsidy rates, expanding access to health insurance for providers and providing resources for professional development.

"Over half a million children in our state do not have access to licensed childcare," said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Claire Wilson. "And if it's available, the cost puts it out of reach for most families. This situation is inequitable, hurts families, and has hindered our state's economic recovery. The Fair Start for Kids Act will get parents back to work, get our economy up and running, and give kids a fair start in life with quality childcare and early learning services."

Spectator Event, Religious

Organization Guidance

Gov. Jay Inslee last Monday (May 3) approved an update to the guidance documents for spectator events and religious and faith-based organizations that allows facilities to increase capacity by adding sections for vaccinated attendees.

The change, which is effective immediately, outlines the guidelines for vaccinated sections at sporting events, graduations, religious services and other similar activities.

Under the new spectator events guidance:

* Outdoor facilities may add vaccinated sections until their total capacity is 50% maximum or 22,000 people, whichever is lower, inclusive of both vaccinated and unvaccinated sections. Outdoor unvaccinated spectators cannot exceed 9,000 people.

* Indoor facilities may add vaccinated sections until their total capacity is 50% maximum, or maximum 2000 people, whichever is lower, inclusive of both vaccinated and unvaccinated sections. Indoor unvaccinated spectators in Phase 2 cannot exceed 200 people, or 300 for rooms

greater than 100,000 square feet of space -- and indoor unvaccinated spectators in Phase 3 cannot exceed 400 people, or 600 for rooms greater than 100,000 square feet of space.

Under the new religious and faith based organization guidance:

* Religious and faith based organizations with vaccinated-only sections are allowed to increase overall facility capacity to 50% in Phase 2.

Under the updated guidance the following are acceptable as proof of full vaccination: Vaccination card (which includes name of person vaccinated, type of vaccine provided and date last dose administered) OR a photo of a vaccination card as a separate document OR a photo of the attendee's vaccine card stored on a phone or electronic device OR documentation of vaccination from a healthcare provider electronic health record or state Immunization Information System record. Self-reported vaccination records that are not verified by a health care provider cannot be accepted.

Inslee Inks Economic Justice

Legislation to Help Working Families

Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday (May 4) signed an economic justice legislative package, including the Working Families Tax Credit and the capital gains excise tax, that starts the process of making Washington's upside-down tax system fairer and more equitable.

The governor signed the package at the Tukwila Community Center surrounded by legislators, local elected officials and community groups.

"This is a day where Washington state starts to make progress on making our upside-down tax system fairer and more equitable," Inslee said. "Today, we are taking steps to address this out-of-date system where working families pay a much higher percentage of their income than those who make a lot more."

Currently, low-income Washingtonians pay 17% of their income in taxes while the middle class pays 11% and the wealthiest pay just 3%. The capital gains excise tax legislation will begin to right this upside-down tax structure. An estimated less than one-quarter of one-percent (0.23%) of Washingtonians will pay the tax.

The governor also signed legislation to implement and expand the Working Families Tax Credit. By funding the Working Families Tax Credit, the state will finally fulfill a promise made by the Legislature, which established the tax credit years ago but did not fully fund it at the time.

The tax credit will provide a financial boost for approximately half a million families across the state and will ensure that Washingtonians working hard to make ends meet have a little bit of added financial security.

"I would like to thank all the individuals, groups and labor involved for their hard work and years of effort on these very important pieces of legislation that will help many Washingtonians," Inslee said.











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