With big news today including new CDC guidance on masks for vaccinated people and Seattle Public Schools’ plan to fully reopen this fall, plus days to go until the end of the 2-week pause in the reopening plan, we’re carrying Gov. Inslee‘s pandemic briefing live. Notes as it goes.
He starts by saying “a huge number of business restrictions … will be lifted June 30th.” This is because of a move to “full focus” on vaccinations as the primary weapon against COVID-19. He says cases and hospitalizations are “both coming down … and we’re very pleased. … And there is universal access to the vaccine now.”
In the “immediate future,” the governor says that as of next Tuesday, every county “will have the opportunity to be in Phase 3,” even if they are now in Phase 2, but it’s up to local decisionmakers. “The basic bottom line is that most of our businesses will stay at 50 percent indoors,” until that full reopening on June 30th – or earlier if the state gets to 70 percent vaccination (at least the first dose) of people 16+. Right now, he says, trends suggest that won’t happen until late June, but it could happen sooner, with capacity/supply for more vaccinations to be given every day than are being given right now.
2:52 PM: Inslee says the new CDC mask guidance for fully vaccinated people will be adopted by our state, effective immediately. That’s two weeks after the second shot if you got Moderna or Pfizer, or after the one and only shot if you got Johnson & Johnson. However, he says, businesses can require workers/customers to wear masks – the new guidance just means that if you’re fully vaccinated, the state won’t require it in most places.
Again, he says, regarding vaccination, “this is a different pandemic strategy, but we need the same level of commitment.”
2:56 PM: He moves on to schools, saying he expects that all will fully open for in-person learning this fall – an announcement that Seattle Public Schools made earlier today. Whether they’ll have any rules depends on the vaccination rate. COVID testing will be “ramped up” in the fall, he says. He also mentions more money for business relief.
3 PM: Now on to media Q&A. The first two questions are for clarification of the new mask guidance. Again, they’ll still be required some places – including health care and public transportation. But businesses CAN still require masks if they choose to. How would businesses check someone’s vaccination status? he’s asked. The state is not planning to require that they check – “but again, they are legally entitled to do so” if they choose, he says. State health secretary Dr. Umair Shah added that what the CDC said today is further recognition that vaccines are effective in both protecting the vaccinated person and preventing people from spreading the virus to others. If you’re still uneasy about getting vaccinated, the governor added, talk with your health-care provider “and get their advice.”
Will the governor follow what Florida is doing and canceling fines/penalties for business violators of COVID rules? No, Inslee says.
Will our state follow what other states are doing and offer incentives (like the Ohio lottery)? The governor “would not rule out these kind of incentives. It is something we’re giving some thought to.” He says to wait and see for possible news “next week.”
The state is not planning to call for “vaccine passports,” but again, individual businesses have the right to ask for proof.
3:27 PM: The briefing has wrapped up with the governor making one more pitch for vaccination, saying there’s no reason to not do it. “We’re looking for leaders here” – if you’re vaccinated and know someone who isn’t, talk to them about it. Overall, today he declares today “one of the most remarkable days” since the start of the pandemic.
The window atop this story will soon feature the archived video. Here’s what the governor’s office has published online about today’s reopening announcement.