Inslee issues emergency drought declaration,
proclamations tied to extreme heat, firefighting
Gov. Jay Inslee authorized the state Department of Ecology to issue an emergency drought declaration for most of the state last Wednesday.
A historically dry spring and summer, followed by a record-breaking heat wave, have affected water supplies across Washington. The only areas excluded from the emergency declaration are Seattle, Tacoma and Everett.
A drought emergency means water supply is projected to be below 75 percent of average, and there is a risk of undue hardship to water users and uses. A formal drought declaration authorizes Ecology to take certain measures for the purpose of providing emergency drought relief:
The governor also amended the state's partial burn ban to now also suspend the statutory truck driver hour limitations, to address the interruption in fuel distribution to firefighters.
Gov. Jay Inslee declared a statewide state of emergency last Tuesday (July 9) relating to the growing risk of wildfires, including a statewide prohibition on most outdoor and agricultural burning through September 30.
"Washington is facing a historic drought and we have already experienced record-breaking heat," Inslee said. "We must be vigilant in our efforts to prevent wildfires, and the loss of life and destruction of land and property that comes with them. We don't want a repeat of recent years with dangerous wildfires across the state that have destroyed towns, killed livestock and resulted in weeks of unhealthy air quality. I urge everyone to do their part to help protect our beautiful state and all our communities."
"We have seen a record-breaking number of fires for this early in the summer," said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. "Extreme drought conditions leave communities across our state at risk as fire danger continues to climb. I'm asking everyone to do their part and take precautions to prevent wildfires. Our firefighters on the frontlines depend on us to help keep them safe."
Inslee issues housing stability "bridge" proclamation
Gov. Jay Inslee last Tuesday (July 29) issued a housing stability 'bridge' emergency order, proclamation 21-09, intended to bridge the operational gap between the eviction moratorium (expired at 11:59 PM June 30) enacted by prior proclamations and the protections and programs subsequently enacted by the Legislature. The bridge, which was initially announced last week, will also reduce uncertainty as the state implements post-COVID long-term housing recovery strategies contained in legislative enactments such as SB 5160.
"COVID has created a significant economic impact on our state and many Washingtonians are still experiencing financial hardships. This bridge creates reasonable steps that will help ensure that renters have the opportunity to receive support and resources available to them and that the Legislature intended to be in place to help both landlords and tenants," Inslee said.
Recent legislative actions include appropriating an additional $650 million for landlord and tenant rental assistance and also establishing certain programs, like the eviction resolution pilot program, which were intended to be in place after the eviction moratorium ends. However, the funding has not yet been disbursed and these programs are not yet operational statewide.
In response to this unintended gap, this order requires, among other things, that:
Inslee removes COVID-related capacity limits
Last Friday, Gov. Jay Inslee removed COVID-related capacity limits at publicly owned or operated, and non-profit cooling centers.
"Beginning today, and persisting well into next week, meteorologists predict that temperatures will rise rapidly throughout the Pacific Northwest. Consequently, Washingtonians will be at high to very high risk of heat-related effects. In response, many local governments are mobilizing "cooling centers" to protect people from the weather," Inslee said. "I want to ensure that local jurisdictions have flexibility in options that can provide relief from the heat."
The governor's emergency proclamations 20-05 and 20-25.13, "Healthy Washington - Roadmap to Recovery," remain in effect and have capacity limitations to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This order allows capacity limitations to be adjusted or removed in order to provide the ability to serve more people at publicly owned or operated, and non-profit cooling centers.
Eligible cooling centers are those created, administered or designated by a non-profit, state or local government entity; e.g., a state agency, city, county or other political subdivision, or an entity incorporated under the Washington Nonprofit Corporation Act or analogous law from another jurisdiction, to temporarily address the health effects of a heatwave.
The suspension of capacity limitations does not apply to private, for-profit businesses that offer air-conditioned spaces to the general public.
All other aspects of the governor's COVID restrictions remain in effect until Wednesday, June 30th or whenever 70 percent of the population initiates vaccination, whichever comes first.
Gov. Jay Inslee released a statement last Tuesday (June 15) on numbers used to determine when Washington state will fully reopen.
"Many people, myself included, are eager for our state to fully reopen. I have said repeatedly we are going to do this on June 30 or when we hit 70 percent of people 16 and up initiating vaccinations - whichever happens first. We use age 16 and up as that population was eligible when we made the announcement.
"I am hopeful Washingtonians will get vaccinated for their own health and that of their loved ones, and to help move our state closer to a full reopening.
"For those who would advocate changing our strategy, we are on the two-yard line. We are not going to change the game plan now. We are going to see this through.
"I said this last week, but it bears repeating: We need to compare apples to apples. Many on social media have chosen to compare data that don't belong together, giving Washingtonians incomplete or misinformed data on our progress.
"Our state uses data for people age 16 and up; the federal government uses data for ages 18 and up. We use the most recent Census data from 2020; the federal government uses older data.
"Additionally, the Department of Defense and Veterans Administration federal vaccination programs do not share person-level data with the Department of Health, and the state can only rely on data it has access to and can verify.
"Washington state has been calculating data the same way throughout this process. This provides the most complete, accurate and transparent data on vaccination rates.
"I encourage all Washingtonians to get vaccinated. Not only is it the right thing to do, but the Shot of a Lifetime vaccine lottery is ongoing and those who initiate vaccination are automatically entered."
Inslee announces reopening guidance
Gov. Jay Inslee last Wednesday announced more details on what COVID mitigation measures will remain in place after the state's economy fully reopens June 30 or earlier.
Industries may return to usual operations at that time - with one caveat: the current applicable masking guidance will still be required. There will be capacity restrictions for large indoor event venues, and there will be certain COVID mitigation measures going on in schools and universities.
Large indoor venues that can accommodate 10,000 or more people will be restricted to 75 percent capacity after the state lifts most COVID restrictions. The guidance will not require physical distancing, but attendees must follow the current masking requirements.
Larger events have a significantly greater risk of spreading disease than smaller events, especially indoors. The governor said the state will reevaluate this restriction at the end of July.
The current travel guidelines, which largely mirror CDC recommendations, will remain in place.
Gov. Inslee said, "I would like to reflect on the progress that we have made as a state. This is an incredible time - vaccinations are widely available and free, more than two-thirds of the people in our state have initiated vaccination; and the public's confidence in this medical miracle grows each day. Soon we will be able to go back to more normal operations. We all should be very proud of what we've accomplished to save lives."
Inslee announces vaccination incentives
As of Friday morning, the U.S. has reported more than 33 million COVID-19 cases and 596,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Worldwide, there have been more than 172 million cases and more than 3.7 million deaths. About 51 percent of people in the U.S. have received at least one vaccine shot, and more than 41 percent are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
Through June 3, Pacific County had 1,047 positive cases and three new cases since May 19. There were 15 active cases in the county and 42 hospitalizations. Pacific County had 12 recorded deaths from COVID-19.
Gov. Jay Inslee announced a suite of new incentives to help encourage unvaccinated Washingtonians to get the COVID shot.
The Washington State Lottery will be conducting a "Shot of a Lifetime" giveaway series during the month of June, working with state agencies, technology companies, sports teams and higher education institutions across the state to offer a myriad of different prizes to vaccinated individuals.
The incentives announced today include Lottery cash drawings, with prizes totaling $2 million; higher education tuition and expense assistance; sports tickets and gear; gift cards, airline tickets, and game systems and smart speakers.
"These generous programs will encourage more Washingtonians to take this life-saving vaccine," Inslee said during a press conference Thursday. "I hope people will see this as an opportunity to reopen even sooner than June 30 if we can stay motivated, stay informed and get more people vaccinated faster throughout the month of June."
Inslee sets June 30 for state reopening
Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday that the state is moving toward a statewide June 30 reopening date and that all counties in Washington will move to Phase 3 of the Healthy WA: Roadmap to Recovery reopening plan effective May 18 until June 30.
The announcement comes after the governor paused phase movement for two weeks to review an emerging flattening trend in statewide COVID-19 data. As of this week, the plateau observed in COVID-19 activity has become a decline.
"What we know now gives us the confidence to close this chapter in this pandemic and begin another," Inslee said at a press conference Thursday. "This next part of our fight to save lives in Washington will focus on increasing vaccination rates and continuing to monitor variants of concern as we move toward reopening our state."
The full reopening could happen earlier than June 30 if 70% or more of Washingtonians over the age of 16 initiate vaccination. Washington has administered over six million doses of vaccine, and 56 percent of Washingtonians have initiated vaccination.
Gov. Jay Inslee signed a dozen bills last Tuesday that will improve accountability for law enforcement in Washington state, and will create the nation's strongest police accountability system. The governor, joined by community members and families of those impacted, signed the bills at the Eastside Community Center in Tacoma.
The governor signed legislation that will create an Office of Independent Investigations that reports to the governor, prohibit certain uses of force and will require more thorough oversight requirements for hiring and for reporting misconduct.
"The crises of the past year have unmasked long-standing inequities in our society. The consciousness of our state and nation has been raised against inequity in many forms," Inslee said. "Our moral mandate to acknowledge these hard truths crystallized in the fallout from the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, and the killing of Manny Ellis in Tacoma. The bills I am signing today respect these truths and lay a solid foundation to halt inequity's pernicious influence in our systems of government."
Gov. Jay Inslee last Tuesday (May 4) announced a two-week pause on movement in the Healthy Washington: Roadmap to Recovery reopening plan. Under the pause, every county will remain in its current phase. At the end of two weeks, each county will be re-evaluated.
The decision was made in consultation with the Department of Health, and reflects current data suggesting Washington's fourth wave has hit a plateau. Case counts and hospitalizations remain high, but the plateau suggests continued adherence to public health guidance and vaccinations could help the state turn the corner.
"We are at the intersection of progress and failure, and we cannot veer from the path of progress," Inslee said Tuesday. "Our economy is beginning to show early signs of growth thanks to some of our great legislative victories and we know vaccines are the ticket to further reopening -- if we adhere to public health until enough people are vaccinated."
For the past several weeks, epidemiologists have been following the state's fourth COVID-19 wave, which now appears to be leveling out. The fourth wave has been less severe and case counts and mortalities have not been tied in rates of increase as they have in the past.
Gov. Jay Inslee Friday approved an update to the guidance documents for Proclamation 20-26, Operations and Visitation, for long term care facilities.
The guidance documents will be amended to align with recent CDC recommendations regarding what infection control practices should be in place when planning for or allowing communal activities, such as group activities or communal dining. The changes will allow residents who are fully vaccinated to choose to have close contact with other fully vaccinated individuals and to not wear source control during the activity. This change reflects the continuing progression towards returning long term care facilities to a more normal state by allowing residents to have greater contact with their fellow residents, reducing the stark social isolation many have faced during the past year.
The changes are effective immediately. The Department of Social Health Services, in partnership with the Department of Health, will also issue a guidance letter to long term care providers notifying them of this change.
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