TL;DR – May 19, 2021: All counties move into Phase 3 after reopening pause.

All counties move into Phase 3

Today, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) announced that all Washington counties have moved into Phase 3 of Governor Jay Inslee’s Healthy Washington: Roadmap to Recovery phased reopening plan. This includes Cowlitz, Ferry, Pierce and Whitman counties which were previously in Phase 2. As the governor announced last week, the state is also moving toward June 30 as the date Washington will fully reopen. The full reopening could happen earlier if 70% or more of Washingtonians over the age of 16 initiate vaccination. The decision to move all counties to Phase 3 and announce the tentative reopening plans comes amid declining COVID-19 case counts and a push to increase vaccination rates.

“We are happy to see the beginning of declining disease activity in Washington and more people getting vaccinated,” said Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, Secretary of Health. “However, we need to continue to focus on our vaccination efforts. To fully reopen and protect our communities, we want to see at least 70% of eligible Washington residents get their first dose – right now, we’re at about 59%, so we still have a ways to go.”

State health officials will continue to monitor COVID-19 and vaccination data over the coming weeks. If statewide ICU capacity reaches 90% at any point, activities will be rolled back again.

“The next chapter of recovery from this pandemic is within our reach and we can get there faster with vaccination, ” says Lacy Fehrenbach, Deputy Secretary for the COVID-19 Response. “With vaccine now available to kids 12 and older, we have an opportunity to protect Washington’s youth before summer and all the fun activities that come with it, like camps, sports, and social gatherings. Getting our children and communities vaccinated now will set us up for a safer and more normal summer and beyond in Washington state.”

Waiting for local guidance on masks? ‘Respect the rules of the room,’ says Washington state secretary of health

Following new national guidance relaxing mask mandates for vaccinated people, state health officials on Wednesday advised Washingtonians to respect each other, avoid shaming people who want to keep their masks, and not to game the system amid this moment of transition.

During a weekly Zoom update Wednesday, Dr. Umair Shah, the state’s secretary of health, said the state had been caught off-guard by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s announcement last week easing mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people.

As a result, the Department of Health wasn’t prepared with its own clear guidelines, which Shah said would be released by the end of the week.

In the meantime, Shah recommended that Washingtonians “respect the rules of the room you’re in” and avoid shaming others for continuing to mask up.

Public Health – Seattle & King County also plans to issue new local directives for mask-wearing this week.

When asked about the possibility that people might try to game the system by claiming to be vaccinated just to stop wearing their masks, assistant Secretary of Health Michele Roberts responded by saying: “Shame on them. We each need to do our part.”

People vaccinated in Washington state can access their records online to set up a mobile certificate of COVID-19 vaccination, said Roberts. She recommended doing so well ahead of attending an event requiring proof of vaccination.

The CDC’s shift in guidance took many by surprise, leaving policymakers, businesses and individuals to sort through policies and practices to determine whether to ditch facial coverings.

While some states, like New York, are allowing fully vaccinated residents to stop wearing masks immediately, the transition will be more gradual elsewhere. California is keeping mask requirements in place until mid-June.

More than 6.3 million vaccine doses have been administered to Washington residents, 27,934 of them to 12- to 15-year-olds. Roberts said that figure was double the national average for younger teens, who recently became eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine.

COVID-19 Reopening Guidance for Businesses and Workers

On March 11, 2021, Governor Inslee announced the Healthy Washington – Roadmap to Recovery plan will be transitioning from a regional approach to a county-by-county evaluation process.

The full Healthy Washington phased chart is available here.

Important Reference Documents

Healthy Washington Requirements

The following business activities must adhere to the occupancy and operation requirements outlined for their region’s Healthy Washington phase:

Spectator Events

Religious and Faith-Based Organizations

Professional Services

Personal Services

Eating and Drinking Establishments

Weddings, Funerals and Events

Sports, Recreation and Fitness

Indoor Entertainment Establishments

Outdoor Entertainment Establishments

All employers must follow COVID-19 prevention protocols for employees as required by the Department of Labor and Industries. Industry-specific workplace requirements are listed below:

Additional Industry Requirements

For additional industry-specific safety practices, including those for Farm and Agricultural Workers, Food Workers and Establishments, schools, healthcare providers, and others, please visit the Department of Health’s Resources and Recommendations Page.

Brynn Brady, Ceiba Consulting | Martin Flynn Public Affairs, Inc. | 253.686.3387