At a press conference Thursday afternoon, Gov. Jay Inslee announced that the state was "on track for a full reopening of our economy by June 30," according to prepared remarks.
Next Tuesday all counties will move into Phase 3 of the state's mercurial 'Healthy Washington' reopening plan, including those in Pierce County who have been suffering the indignities of mitigation efforts designed to reduce pain, sickness, and suffering. "Most indoor activities" will remain at 50% capacity statewide after that, but by the end of next month public spaces such as "restaurants, movie theaters, bowling alleys, you name it" will return to full capacity.
Those who are already fully vaccinated, however, can enjoy "additional activities with fewer restrictions" effective immediately, Inslee said. "Spectator events, such as indoor and outdoor sports, will no longer have limits on the number of vaccinated attendees. Small cruise ships with less than 250 passengers can sail if crew and 95% of passengers are vaccinated. This will apply to conferences and live performances, weddings and funeral receptions as well," he said.
Inslee cited "declining" COVID-19 activity as his justification for the decision, and said "trends" suggest the end of June will mark the date when the state achieves its desired vaccination rate of 70% for all residents over 16.
That number, it's worth mentioning, does not represent herd immunity, as Public Health Seattle & King County chief Dr. Jeff Duchin has pointed out on numerous occasions, though it would be a good number to hit. At the moment, about 57% of Washingtonians have received at least one dose of a vaccine, and a little over 43% of people have been fully vaxxed.
With this new benchmark, Inslee joins Governors in states such as California, Illinois, and Ohio, who have also set opening dates in June, according to a New York Times list.
Inslee said the state could open earlier if "70% or more of Washingtonians over the age of 16 have at least initiated their vaccinations before" the new reopening date. Conversely, Inslee vows to "rollback activities" very quickly "if statewide ICU capacity reaches 90% at any point during this emergency."
To help speed the vaccination process along, the Commerce Department will "fund gift cards to local businesses for residents who are recently vaccinated," and wineries and breweries will be able to "buy a glass or pint" for vaccinated customers once the Liquor & Cannabis Board grants approval. Inslee said he "would not rule out" similar weed incentives, such as "joints for jabs," an idea suggested by King 5 reporter Chris Daniels. Vaccinated people will also be eligible for free prizes at Seattle Mariner's games from "partners like T-Mobile, Alaska Airlines, Microsoft, Costco, Nordstrom and more." Blouses and pallets of dill pickles for all!!!
Though the economy may fully open soon, Inslee's state of emergency will remain in effect after June 30, "because the extraordinary emergency created by this pandemic continues." That should give him the authority to extend the state's eviction moratorium, which is scheduled to lift the date Inslee plans to reopen the economy. Housing advocates worry, with good reason, that lifting the moratorium then would kick off a flood of evictions that would exacerbate the homelessness crisis. Though the Legislature passed protections to slow that tide, many of the systems the bills contemplate will not be fully operational by next month.
Inslee said Washington will also immediately implement the Centers for Disease Control's new mask guidance, which allows fully vaccinated people to go maskless outdoors and in most places indoors, excepting schools, hospitals, and public transit. Those who are fully vaccinated, for instance, can walk into grocery stores without wearing a mask. Business owners retain the right to maintain mask requirements, and they can require customers to show proof of immunization, though. Valid vax proofs include vaccination cards, or digital versions of those cards, which you can find at myir.net.