On February 29, 2020, governor Jay Inslee declared a Covid-19 state of emergency in Washington. At the end of this month on October 31, 2022—976 days later—that order will finally be lifted.
Of Inslee’s 85 Covid-related emergency orders, nearly three-quarters have already been changed to inactive, according to the governor’s announcement. Twelve proclamations, all related to health care settings and workers, will be lifted on October 27, and the remaining 10 orders, including the state of emergency, will be removed on the last day of the month.
“Ending this order does not mean we take it less seriously or will lose focus on how this virus has changed the way we live,” Inslee said in his statement. “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.” (Free iHealth Covid tests, for example, will still be available through the Say Yes! program.)
Since those first uncertain weeks, the pandemic has tested the resiliency of our city, and Inslee’s multitude of related emergency orders have done everything from shut down in-person schooling and large gatherings to require masks and vaccinations. By and large, the governor’s measures should be considered a success. In total, over 14,300 Washingtonians have died from Covid-19, but compared to the rest of the states, we have one of the lowest rates of death per capita.
So what’s changing? Schools, when there’s not a strike to contend with, are already back in-person. Indoor mask mandates and vaccine verifications went by the wayside in March. And we’ve ditched several other coronavirus safety measures—some more surreal than others—too.
The biggest thing is Inslee will no longer have the authority to ban activities that could be deemed a threat to public health or safety. Health care workers and educators will also no longer be required to be vaccinated against Covid-19, although individual employers can still require this. All the major hospital organizations in Seattle have already told the Seattle Times they’ll continue to enforce their vax rules.
There is, however, a separate statewide face covering order through the Department of Health that will remain in effect for health and long-term care settings as well as correctional facilities. The governor also announced that the vaccination requirement will continue at several Washington state agencies.
For the average Seattleite, not much is changing. The pandemic isn’t over, but it looks like we’re most definitely in the “live with it” phase.
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