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COVID-19: Inslee sets full 100% reopening of Washington state with virus cases declining

KOMO-TV Seattle logo KOMO-TV Seattle 5/14/2021 KOMO News Staff
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OLYMPIA, Wash. - Washington state is on track to fully reopen its economy by June 30, with a return to 100 percent capacity for the vast majority of public spaces, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday.

The decision to fully reopen the economy comes as more Washingtonians get vaccinated and the number of COVID cases has flattened and started to decline, Inslee said. It also followed an earlier announcement Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control that the fully vaccinated could go without masks while indoors.

At the start of his news conference, Inslee removed his mask before he began speaking, a nod to the updated guidance from the CDC, which the state is poised to adopt as well.

The full reopening could happen even earlier than June 30 if 70% or more of Washingtonians over the age of 16 have at least initiated their COVID vaccinations before then, Inslee said.

"Trends suggest it won’t be until late June when we reach our desired vaccination rate, which is why we’ve set June 30 for reopening, but I hope people will see this as an opportunity to reopen even sooner if we can stay motivated, stay informed and get more people vaccinated faster," Inslee said.

Currently, 57% of Washington residents age 16 and over have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, and 43.7% are fully vaccinated, according to the state Department of Health.

The full reopening at 100% capacity applies to nearly all public spaces, including restaurants, movie theaters and bowling alleys.

"This does not mean our state of emergency will end on June 30, because the extraordinary emergency created by this pandemic continues," Inslee said. "The virus is not done with us, we are merely entering another chapter - one that shifts from restrictions to vaccinations."

Caption: Gov. Jay Inslee announced plans to fully reopen the state in June.

One metric that could change the progress to a full economic reopening would be if statewide ICU capacity reaches 90%. In that case, activities would be rolled back again to save lives, Inslee said.

Inslee also said that all 39 counties in the state will be in Phase 3 of the reopening starting on Tuesday, allowing for 50% capacity for most indoor and outdoor activities. Currently, four counties are in Phase 2, with a 25% capacity limit.

Effective immediately, the state also is expanding incentives to get vaccinated, with fewer restrictions and increased capacity for groups of fully vaccinated people, 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.

The new incentives will apply to conferences and live performances, weddings and funeral receptions as well. Specifics are in the works and will be released as soon as they are final. 

The governor's office said wedding venues will be allowed to host full capacity crowds provided that all of the attendees have received their COVID vaccinations.

The state Department of Commerce is also working with the Association of Washington Business to fund gift cards to local businesses for residents who are recently vaccinated. The Liquor & Cannabis Board is working on a request from wineries and breweries to allow them to buy a glass or a pint for vaccinated customers.

The state also is working with the Seattle Mariners and starting at Thursday night's home game, prizes will be given away to vaccinated individuals at the games from partners like T-Mobile, Alaska Airlines, Microsoft, Costco, Nordstrom and more.

Other ideas are being explored as well, Inslee said.

"Vaccinations are a key piece of our economic recovery. We are making tremendous progress in this pandemic thanks to Washingtonians’ collective work to save lives," he said.

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