OLYMPIA — On the one-year anniversary since the World Health Organization declared covid-19 a pandemic, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced a bundle of good news at an afternoon news conference.

Among his most notable announcements on Thursday, Inslee said that each of Washington’s 39 counties will advance to Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan effective March 22, and that individuals in Tier 2 of Phase 1B in the state’s vaccine prioritization program will become eligible to get vaccinated beginning March 17 — five days earlier than expected.

The move to the newly announced Phase 3 allows up to 50% occupancy for all indoor spaces, including restaurants, gyms and fitness centers, and movie theaters, which were previously restricted to just 25% of their maximum occupancy.

Phase 3 guidance also permits in-person spectators at sporting events for the first time since the pandemic began, for both high school and professional sports, as well as other outdoor spectator events. Fans will be allowed to attend outdoor venues that have permanent seating, capped at 25%, with social distancing and facial coverings still required. High-contact indoor sports, including basketball, wrestling and cheerleading, will also be able to compete again.

Inslee also announced Thursday that the state would be returning to a county-by-county reopening approach going forward, after moving to a regional approach several months ago. To remain in Phase 3, smaller counties with a population of 50,000 or less must maintain a 14-day average of new cases at 30 or fewer, and have a new seven-day hospitalization average at three or fewer.

Counties will be individually evaluated once every three weeks under the updated plan. If a county fails either or both of the two metrics, they will be moved down one phase of the reopening plan. And if at any point the statewide ICU capacity reaches 90% or greater, all counties will move down one phase.

Starting next Wednesday, March 17, critical workers in congregate settings and all people 16 or older who are pregnant or have a disability that puts them at high-risk will become eligible to be vaccinated. Workers that will become eligible include those in agriculture, food processing, grocery stores, public transit, firefighters and law enforcement.

As it stands, individuals age 50 or older with two or more underlying health conditions or comorbidities are projected to become eligible for vaccination on April 12. On April 26, those age 16 or older with at least two underlying conditions will become eligible, as well as those living in congregate settings, such as prisons or homeless shelters.

The Observer will have more information in the March 17 print issue.

(1) comment

Guy

I can't believe a 61 year old male with at least 4 of the underlying conditions is not eligible unless I'm in prison.

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