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Gov. Inslee Places Two-Week Pause on Phase Reopenings across WA

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Photo by Ted S. Warren AP
Photo by Ted S. Warren AP

On May 4, 2021, Gov. Jay Inslee provided an update surrounding the coronavirus pandemic in Washington state. Although there was talk of a potential Phase 2 rollback in King County, Inslee announced that for the following two weeks, each county's current phase will be placed on hold. For King County, that means sticking with Phase 3 protocols. As of now, there are no decisions to change the phase plans other than the active two-week pause.

"If we are going to save lives and simultaneously keep businesses open, remaining flexible is an important element and virtue and has served us very well," stated Inslee. He described how he would love to have a concrete plan for the following six months, but with rapid fluctuations of the pandemic, that remains an unfeasible option. Inslee estimated that the statewide approach to restrictions and reopenings (including social distancing measures and the mask mandate) has saved 15,000—17,000 Washingtonians' lives since the start of the pandemic, whereas more lives have been lost in other states where such measures were left up to local governments.

Recent trends in coronavirus cases across the state have led the governor to make this decision. Washington began to see a fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic back in April, but for the past two weeks, the rise in cases has plateaued. The decision to pause was made in order to see if the number of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations will rise or fall, and to prevent another potential rise.

Furthermore, the risk of indoor spread of the virus remains high, and a sizeable portion of the population does not yet have full protection from the virus.

At the end of the two-week pause, state officials will evaluate coronavirus metrics, such as cases per 100,000 residents and hospitalization rates, and determine how to proceed. "We've gotta figure out which pitch this virus is throwing at us, and if they're throwing us a curve ball, we gotta hit a curveball, so we're going to continue generally on that route," Inslee said.

Vaccination in the state

Approximately 5.5 million doses of the vaccine have been administered in the state. Over 54% of eligible Washingtonians have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 38% are fully vaccinated. But the state still has a long way to go in order to achieve a semblance of what life was once like prior to the pandemic.

At the beginning of the vaccine rollout, those who were at most risk from contracting the coronavirus received it, which assisted in lowering the death and hospitalization rates. But recently, young people are now an increasing percentage of those being hospitalized.

As of now, there are no authorized vaccines for those under the age of 16 years, although Pfizer-BioNTech recently released a statement saying that its vaccine for those aged 12 to 15 will soon be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

"We know vaccines are the ticket to reopening... Now I can't say enough about what a miracle this is to have this vaccine. These vaccines are desperately wanted across the planet, and we have them right here in the state of Washington. And so, we would hate to see that miracle go to waste," stated Inslee, who stressed the importance of receiving a COVID vaccine as soon as possible.

The vaccination supply from the federal government will not increase, but it will continue to provide Washington with a stable supply so that all residents can receive shots. For questions regarding whether the vaccine is right for you, Inslee recommends reaching out to doctors, physicians, and even dentists, who will be more able to inform and advise patients, as well as administer more shots in medical settings.

For the LGBTQ+ community, trusting a doctor or medical professional might not be so simple, however. A history of stigma, discrimination, and a lack of understanding has led some LGBTQ+ individuals to resist seeking advice (and care) from doctors altogether. The Human Rights Campaign released data in March of 2021 describing how one major concern is the vaccine's unknown potential side effects.

As difficult as it may be for some to ask for a medical professional's support, the future health of Washingtonians revolves around the vaccination effort. People are encouraged to reach out to friends, family members, and mentors to come up with a vaccination plan. As Inslee put it: "If you get frustrated, don't be just get angry, get even with this virus. Knock it down. Get somebody else to get vaccinated."

Inslee and state health officials are hopeful that with an increase of Washingtonians getting vaccinated, a more normal state of affairs may come to pass over the summer and early fall.

To book your COVID-19 vaccination appointment and help stop the spread, visit https://vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov/