At a press conference Tuesday morning, Governor Jay Inslee and state health officials announced a two-week "pause" to our ever-evolving "Healthy Washington reopening plan," which means all counties will stay in their current phase.
For a few weeks now the state's more populous counties, including King County, expected Inslee to tighten restrictions on activities and to reduce capacities at restaurants, gyms, and the like. That's because those counties currently exceed the reopening plan's allowable thresholds for COVID-19 case rates and hospitalization rates. But in prepared remarks, Inslee said he made the decision to press pause "because we are in an evolving situation, unlike any other during this pandemic."
Despite the fourth COVID-19 wave crashing all around the country, Inslee said "the most recent data we have, including what DOH observed over the weekend" suggests a "potential" plateau in case rates here.
Though both rates and hospitalizations are up and remain higher than previous wave peaks, "hospital stays are shorter and we are confident staff are handling the increase," he explained.
He and the DOH attribute the apparent "plateau" to the vaccine rollout, and officials basically want to see if the vaccine rate will help bring down the curve. Right now, about 31% of the state is fully vaccinated.
If shit really starts to go south, Inslee added, county health officials can always decide to impose tighter restrictions to deal with the spread of the deadly respiratory virus.
Reporters asked why the state doesn't just give the counties total control over the reopening plan, rather than continue to impose this shifty top-down approach. Inslee said "bottom line" that other states who have done so ended up losing "tens of thousands of people." He said "we've saved maybe 15,000-17,000 lives by having a statewide approach."
Public Health Seattle & King County chief Dr. Jeff Duchin agreed. "We have among the lowest COVID-19 case rates and deaths rates in the nation, and I think that's a tribute to the cohesion our community showed with great collaboration and speaking with one voice in how we responded to this pandemic, and I think that's in contrast to what you saw from our national leadership at the time and in many other states," he said.
Duchin also backed the Governor's call, and praised him for making the "difficult decision" based on the latest information. The two-week pause, he said, will give epidemiologists some time to determine whether we're "turning a corner on the 4th wave, which we may very well be."
"We are seeing encouraging signs that the epi-curve for cases may be leveling off in the state," said Washington Department of Health secretary Umair Shah.
The best way to keep case numbers down, Inslee and other health officials have said, is to get vaccinated.
If you're one of the ~40% of King County residents who have yet to start the process, you should know that in recent weeks Seattle and the County have made it much easier to get the vaccine.
As of yesterday, anyone over the age of 16 no longer needs an appointment to get the shot at Lumen Field, Rainier Beach, and West Seattle. The same is true at the county's sites in Kent and Auburn. The whole process takes about half an hour.
Inslee encouraged all who express "frustration" with the state's constantly changing reopening plan to "find someone who is not vaccinated" and help get them vaccinated. Yet again, it's on us to get our conservative (and far left) relatives, who don't listen to us, to get vaccine—though the state believes there's "a substantial slice of people who aren't objecting to the vaccine, they just haven't gotten around to yet," Inslee said.
Something Duchin said could work a pitch that may help persuade recalcitrant family members: "Vaccination is the cure for mitigation measure whack-a-mole. The more people are vaccinated, the more we'll be able to do, and the more quickly we'll be able to do it," he said.
He added that the health department understands that some young people feel as if they don't need to get the vaccine, and he said he understood that position. But even if young people don't care about catching the bug, Duchin said youths should get vaccinated to protect the tens of thousands of vulnerable people who cannot get the vaccine due to health issues.
This is a developing story, so please hold your horses while I type up this press conference.