All Washington COVID-19 emergency orders will end by Halloween, but response and recovery efforts will remain a priority

While Gov. Jay Inslee announced that all COVID-19 emergency orders will end by Oct. 31st, Washington health care leaders will continue to prioritize virus response and recovery.

 

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Nearly three-quarters of the governor’s 85 COVID-19 emergency orders have already been lifted, and an additional 13 health care-related orders will end on Oct. 27th. Those orders include rules related to training, testing, the certification of various health care professionals, and the certificate of needs process for health care facilities.

The remaining 10 orders scheduled to be lifted by Halloween include vaccination requirements for health care and education workers, although employers will continue to maintain the authority to require them if they choose to. Inslee said vaccination will remain a condition of employment for most state agencies.

Washington has one of the lowest COVID-19 death rates in the nation. It had a 0.6 weekly death rate per 100,000 people from Sept. 10th through Sept. 16th, the latest rate on record at the Washington State Department of Health (DOH). That was down from a 1.4 weekly death rate per 100,000 people from July 4th through July 10th.

“We’ve come a long way the past two years in developing tools that allow us to adapt and live with COVID-19,” Inslee said in a statement. “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. 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.”

Ingrid Ulrey, Regional Director of District 10 for the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), said COVID-19 response and recovery remains 1 of HHS’ top 3 issues at the 2022 Inland Northwest State of Reform Policy Conference.

“A lot of the tools in our tool chest, the mitigation strategies, have been relaxed,” Ulrey said. “Really, vaccination is our most important course of action at this point.”

DOH Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah also said the virus remains a priority.

“Gov. Inslee’s rescission of these remaining emergency orders marks an important transition for the state, but that does not mean that COVID-19 is not in our state anymore,” Shah said. “We must move forward from a pandemic response to adapting our behaviors to coexist with the virus.”

Washington legislative leaders approved significant relief measures to help businesses and households with the financial impacts of the pandemic, including expanded unemployment benefits, rent assistance, an eviction moratorium, utility assistance, and numerous small business grant and assistance programs.

The statewide face-covering order issued by the DOH will remain in place for health care and long-term care settings, as well as correctional facilities under certain circumstances after the state of emergency ends. The governor is also considering options to ensure there are protections for workers who choose to wear a mask at work.