As he prepares to sign an executive proclamation ordering schools to offer part-time, in-person instruction by April 19, Washington Governor Jay Inslee today announced that his COVID-19 reopening plan – Healthy Washington: Roadmap to Recovery – will begin operating with a county-by-county evaluation process, rather than a regional approach.
Inslee announced a new third phase of re-opening, which will include a return for in-person spectators for professional and high school sports.
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Effective March 22, the entire state will enter Phase 3.
Because of the progress we’ve made by decreasing our case rates and hospitalizations, as well as our tremendous efforts to get more people vaccinated, our reopening plan is once again based on counties, not regions,” Inslee said during a press conference Thursday. “We are excited to take this step and we will keep evaluating our progress, and the impacts of these changes, to determine how and when we reopen further.”
According to the Governor’s office, sports guidance will change in Phase 3 to allow in-person spectators at events for the first time in a year. Spectators will be permitted to attend outdoor venues with permanent seating with capacity capped at 25%. Social distancing and facial covering at sporting events will still be required.
Inslee also announced that beginning on Wednesday, March 17, all Washingtonians in Phase 1B, Tier 2 will be eligible for their COVID vaccine. Workers in this phase include those in agriculture, food processing, grocery stores, public transit, firefighters and law enforcement. This phase also extends to people over the age of 16 who are pregnant or have a disability that puts them at high-risk.
Inslee will also issue an emergency order that creates new requirements for Washington’s K-12 school districts to offer students the opportunity for in-person learning, at least partially. School districts would see these new requirements applied to students in grades K-6 by April 5 and grades 7-12 by April 19.
Sen. John Braun, the Senate Minority Leader, said the following:
Governor Inslee’s announcement today requiring choice in how schools provide instruction is the best course of action right now. I hope being given the option to do what’s best for their children will improve morale among our K-12 families. This is a solid step toward getting our kids back on track – academically and mentally. The alarming toll this pandemic has taken on youth is our newest mental-health crisis. It’s unfortunate that some are only waking up to that reality now. But others are still ignoring the youth suicide rates and other indicators of how negatively our children are being affected.
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