Thanks to increasing supply and relatively high vaccination rates, two million more Washingtonians will be eligible to make vaccine appointments starting on March 31, Governor Jay Inslee announced at a press conference on Thursday.
This expansion basically jumps the state forward two tiers in the first phase of our phase scheme.
By the end of the month, the following groups of people can start scheduling shots:
• Anyone between 60 and 64 years of age
• Anyone with 2+ comorbidities, regardless of age
• People living in congregate settings, such as homeless shelters, correctional facilities, and group homes for those with disabilities
• And last but not least: workers in restaurants, construction workers, and workers in manufacturing
After Inslee doubled capacity in restaurants and other businesses statewide last week, restaurant workers and lobbyists increased the pressure on his office to expand eligibility for employees, who would now face double the risk they've been facing for nearly a year.
It's time to consider what essential means and what that means the next time you dine-in, take-out, or choose delivery. Increasing occupancy while holding back access to vaccine defies logic. Vaccinate the workers @GovInslee @WADeptHealth pic.twitter.com/u7BorOh2na
— Eric Rivera (@ericriveracooks) March 18, 2021
As Eater Seattle reported, the state's reasoning behind reopening restaurants without protecting their workers didn't make much sense. The state told Eater vaccine supplies were "limited," and that "restaurants are generally smaller and have alternative options to avoid congregation of customers, such as takeout and delivery options," which seemed to ignore the point of the ask. Sure, customers can order takeout and stand outside, but the increased staff required would run a greater risk of contracting the virus at work.
Though the newly eligible must wait until the end of the month to start scheduling, the Washington Department of Health wants everyone to know they've launched a new vaccine locator tool. When your time comes, just click here to find a vax site near you.
Inslee also extended the eviction moratorium through June 30, which aligns with Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan's decision to do the same earlier this week.
Extending the moratorium comes as a relief to over 130,000 tenants in Washingtonian who say they've fallen behind on rent as a result of the pandemic. The decision to protect renters from their landlord's boot (for now) only makes sense given the fact that the state has yet to distribute hundreds of millions of dollars that Congress earmarked for rent relief in the American Rescue Plan.
In related news, yesterday Inslee extended the utility shutoff moratorium through the end of July, and he signed another proclamation to prevent debt collectors from garnishing stimulus payments like a bunch of fucking maniacal vultures.
Finally, fully vaccinated Washingtonians can now visit their loved ones (or their fiercest enemies) in long-term care facilities again. "Outdoor visitation remains the safest, preferred option," Inslee said in a prepared statement, but if you're got your jabs then you can go in.