OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee unveiled more encouraging news on the state’s vaccination efforts Thursday afternoon, announcing that covid-19 vaccines will become available to two million more Washingtonians weeks earlier than the state expected.

Beginning March 31, Inslee announced that vaccine eligibility will be expanded to the next two tiers of people, including anyone between 60 and 64 years of age and anyone age 16 or older with two or more comorbidities or underlying health conditions.

Eligibility has also been expanded to other critical workers in congregate settings, including restaurant, construction and manufacturing workers. Additionally, anyone living in congregate settings — such as homeless shelters, correctional facilities and those with disabilities living in group homes — will also become eligible by the end of the month.

These groups were initially not projected to become eligible for the vaccine in Washington until mid-to-late April. As some states announce future vaccine eligibility dates for all adults, Inslee said that the state, for now, will continue to work on vaccinating its population one group at a time.

"Governors look great when they just say everybody's eligible for the vaccine. But it's one thing to be eligible for that vaccine, and it's another to actually be able to get it," Inslee said at the press conference.

The news comes after high-risk critical workers in certain congregate settings and people age 16 or older who are pregnant or have a disability that puts them at higher risk became eligible to be vaccinated on March 17. With these new tiers of people becoming eligible to receive the vaccine in two weeks time, more than five million Washington residents and workers will be eligible to be vaccinated by the end of March.

In Pacific County, those wanting to get vaccinated can sign up for the countywide waitlist at https://tinyurl.com/2rjnbb4m, even if they are not currently eligible. County health department staff is sorting those who sign up for the waitlist into their respective eligibility group, and will reach out to them to schedule a vaccine once their group becomes eligible and there is adequate vaccine supply in the county.

Inslee also announced that the state is allowing indoors, in-person visits to long-term care facilities to resume if residents or visitors have been vaccinated. The governor also announced that he is extending the moratorium on evictions through June 30, as well as the moratorium on utility shut-offs through July 31.

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