OLYMPIA — Washington is set to lift the state’s broad COVID-19 restrictions by June 30, and possibly sooner if enough people get vaccinated before then, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday.
That full reopening would come sooner if 70% or more of state residents over the age of 16 have gotten at least their first shot before then. Currently, 57% of Washingtonians 16 and up have gotten at least one shot.
And starting immediately, the state will ease restrictions for groups of fully vaccinated people.
For example, events like outdoor and indoor sports won’t have capacity limits for the number of attendees who have been vaccinated.
Likewise, weddings and funerals will be allowed at full capacity if the attendees have all been vaccinated.
In the meantime, starting Tuesday and until a full reopening date, all of Washington’s 39 counties will be in the third and least-restrictive phase of the governor’s current “Healthy Washington” plan.
Thursday’s announcement marks a turning point for Washington after more than a year of unprecedented restrictions to curb a pandemic that has fundamentally reordered social and economic life.
The developments come the same day that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced relaxed guidelines for the wearing of masks by those fully vaccinated.
Most counties — including King and Snohomish — are currently in the third phase, which allows indoor spaces like stores, venues, restaurants and fitness centers to operate at 50% capacity.
Thursday’s developments may bring a measure of certainty after an uncertain few months where Washington experienced a fourth surge. Just two weeks ago, King County was seeing public-health metrics that would have driven indoor occupancy down to 25% under the Healthy Washington plan.
Meanwhile, a handful of counties — including Pierce — last month rolled back to tighter restrictions amid a surge in new coronavirus cases.
What implications the CDC’s announcement would have for Washington retailers and restaurants was not immediately clear. Gov. Inslee’s mask mandate remains in place and many industry leaders were looking to his office for possible new guidance.
For Washington’s grocery stores, mask mandates will remain in place until Gov. Inslee changes his policy, said Tammie Hetrick, president and CEO of the Washington Food Industry Association, which represents grocers.
“My grocery stores are going to follow the governor’s guidance until we hear differently. That’s kind of where we’re at,” Hetrick said. “My employers will receive penalties from DOH and Labor & Industries if we don’t follow the governor’s guidance.”