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Inslee says Washington could fully reopen by June 30, earlier if vaccine rates rise

Seattle Post-Intelligencer logo Seattle Post-Intelligencer 5/13/2021 By Becca Savransky, SeattlePI
a man wearing a suit and tie © Ted S. Warren, AP

Washington will be able to lift most of its coronavirus restrictions by the end of June, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday.

The announcement comes as the state has been trending in the right direction on coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, and more people have been getting vaccinated. 

"We are very pleased to be able to announce this," Inslee said during a news conference Thursday. "We've got more work to do but this should give us a good path forward in reopening our state."

Inslee said the reopening -- which means many businesses will be able to open at 100% capacity on June 30 -- could happen sooner if at least 70% of people 16 and older get at least one dose of the vaccine. But the state still has a ways to go, he said.

"But this is a huge step forward. It is a new chapter in our fight against COVID," he said. "It is a recognition that we are moving to a strategy based on vaccination as opposed to restrictions in our personal behavior."

Washington also plans to adopt the new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that says people who are fully vaccinated may not have to wear masks in most places, Inslee said. Businesses can still choose to require people to wear masks and in certain places like hospitals, long-term care and doctor's offices, masks will still be required.

In recent weeks, coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have been flattening across the state. The most recent data shows as of May 4 shows the state was seeing a rate of about 245 new cases per 100,000 people over the previous two weeks. As of May 1, there were about seven hospitalizations per 100,000 people over the seven days prior.

Last week, Inslee put a pause on the state's reopening plan as cases started to level out across the state. Officials have been hopeful Washington reached the peak of its fourth wave and would see declining trends going forward. 

Inslee said that next Tuesday, all 39 counties in Washington would be in Phase 3. Several had been punted back to Phase 2 due to rising cases and hospitalization rates and others had been on the verge of moving back.

But, cases and hospitalizations still remain high across the state.

Officials are urging everyone to get vaccinated as soon as they can to protect themselves and the community. This week, kids 12 to 15 years old became eligible for the Pfizer vaccine, making about 378,000 more people eligible to get the shots. Previously only adults 16 and older could get the vaccines. 

The most recent data shows about 46% of the total population have received at least one dose of the vaccine and about 35% are fully vaccinated. Of the previously eligible population 16 and older, more than 57% have received at least one vaccine dose and nearly 44% are fully vaccinated.

In recent weeks, officials have shown some concern over a softening of demand. Now, many clinics offer walk-in shots with no appointment necessary and officials are working to stand up popup clinics to make getting the shot even more convenient for people. 

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