State’s COVID emergency order ends next week

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The COVID-19 pandemic remains, but it’s no longer an emergency thanks to vaccinations, medical treatments, and the innumerable efforts of countless Washingtonians since the state had the nation’s first documented case in January 2020. As the governor announced last month, Monday will be the last day of the governor’s COVID emergency declaration.

“While we are grateful for the thousands of lives we saved together, thousands of lives were also lost, and many more were changed forever,” Inslee said. “The past two and a half years have been some of the hardest anyone can remember. Through the loss and suffering, we did not lose faith and we did not abandon each other. Working together, we saved countless thousands of lives.”

The governor’s emergency orders contributed to Washington having one of the lowest COVID death rates across all 50 states for the pandemic. The state currently has the fifth-lowest death rate nationwide, and all of Washington’s counties currently have low community transmission levels.

If the rest of the nation had the same death rate as Washington, some 433,000 more lives could have been saved.

The virus still poses a threat to public health and continues to evolve. More than 300 people in the United States die from the virus every day. Safety precautions in workplaces, healthcare facilities and certain congregate settings will continue. Local health jurisdictions may continue to have additional COVID requirements in place as well. Most state employees will continue to be subject to a vaccination requirement.

The secretary of the Department of Health's masking order will continue to cover healthcare and long-term care facilities, as well as some correctional facilities in communities where community levels are high according to the CDC.

The Department of Labor & Industries also continues to require all employers to meet certain safety standards, as COVID remains a recognized workplace hazard. Requirements include keeping employees who have tested positive or are symptomatic away from the workplace for at least five days or providing PPE to those working with or near individuals with COVID; exposure notifications; anti-discrimination rules against high-risk workers seeking accommodations for COVID; and protecting the option to wear masks in the workplace.

“I can’t express how grateful I am to the health care workers, public health teams and other frontline workers who helped save so many lives and will continue keeping our communities safe and healthy,” Inslee said. “Ending this order does not mean we take the pandemic less seriously or will lose focus on how this virus has changed the way we live. We will continue our commitments to the public’s well-being, but simply through different tools that are now more appropriate for the era we’ve entered.”

The remaining proclamations to be rescinded Monday are 20-05.1, 20-09.5, 20-12.6, 20-25.20, 20-43.11, 20-64.6, 20-78.1, 20-83.3, 21-08.2, 21-14.6, and 21-05.2.

Previous coverage:

The New York Times: “Seattle’s virus success shows what could have been”

The Washington Post: “The all-stars in the fight against the pandemic”

The Week: “A COVID-19 tale of two governors”

Medium: “Inslee shares Washington’s pandemic story with U.S. House COVID committee”


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