State reopening plan moving to Phase 3 Monday
Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday that the state's Healthy Washington: Roadmap to Recovery will be transitioning from a regional approach to a county-by-county evaluation process. The governor also announced a new third phase of the Roadmap, a return for in-person spectators for professional and high school sports.
Effective March 22, the entire state will enter Phase 3.
Sports guidance will change in Phase 3 to allow in-person spectators at events for the first time in a year. Spectators will be allowed to attend outdoor venues with permanent seating with capacity capped at 25 percent. The change affects both professional and high school sports, as well as motorsports, rodeos, and other outdoor spectator events. Social distancing and facial covering are still required.
Next Tier of Vaccine
Eligibility Coming Earlier
On Thursday, the governor announced that every group prioritized in Phase 1B, Tier 2 will be eligible for their COVID vaccine starting Wednesday, March 17.
This includes workers in agriculture, food processing, grocery stores, public transit, firefighters and law enforcement, among others. Phase 1B, Tier 2 also includes people over the age of 16 who are pregnant or have a disability that puts them at high-risk.
The state will continue to ensure those eligible in earlier phases who have not yet been administered doses have space to be vaccinated, even as more people become eligible.
Washington No. 1, Again
Washington state was ranked as the best state in the nation by U.S. News & World Report in a new report released Monday night. Washington has held the top ranking since 2019.
The publication annually ranks all 50 states across a myriad of categories, such as health care, opportunity, the economy and education. Washington ranked first for broadband access and GDP growth, as well as tying for first for government credit rating score and ranking in the top ten of five other categories.
"I am so happy for the people of Washington to take home this honor again. It takes all 7.6 million of us to make this state the dynamic place it truly is. Washingtonians are motivated to lead and innovate in all aspects of our society, in labor, business, education, health, and so much more," Gov. Jay Inslee said. "It was that same spirit that helped us bounce back from being the first state in the nation hit by COVID-19, and we are on our way to a robust recovery because of our unique attributes."
All Schools to Offer
In-Person Option by April
On Friday, nearly one year to the day since the governor and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal closed school buildings statewide in response to the pandemic, the governor announced he will sign an emergency proclamation to ensure all school districts offer some in-person learning options to students by April. The proclamation comes in response to mounting evidence of a mental health crisis among young people spawned by the pandemic.
"We have asked enough of our students and families," Inslee said during a press conference Friday. "I have been motivated all year to get our students back in school; I have had many conversations with educators; I have toured schools that are back in person across the state; and I have seen the medical evidence, both for COVID transmission in schools and, very importantly, the impact of this pandemic on our children's mental health."
This emergency proclamation will prohibit any K-12 school from declining to offer opportunities in both remote instruction and on-campus, in-person instruction. In many schools, they will operate in a hybrid learning model where students are divided into groups and receive partial in-person instruction and partial remote instruction, to accommodate the health and safety requirements.
By April 5, all students in grades kindergarten through six must have the opportunity to engage in a hybrid model of instruction; and by April 19, all other K-12 students must be provided a hybrid model of instruction.
Also by April 19, 2021, all school districts must meet at least 30% of average weekly instructional hours as on-campus, in-person instruction for all K-12 students. In addition, under no circumstances may a student be offered less than two days (which may be two partial days) of on-campus, in-person instruction per week. All school districts must continue to work to exceed the 30 percent minimum instructional hours, and must reach the school's maximum capacity and maximum frequency of on-campus, in-person instruction that the school can provide, when all health and safety recommendations are applied, as soon as possible.
In-person instruction must comply with DOH guidance as well as LNI requirements for employee safety as dictated by the School Employer Health and Safety Requirements. The proclamation acknowledges that remote instruction is great for some students and they will have the option to continue all-remote learning.
Returning to school does not resolve all student mental health issues - it is part of the solution and will help some students. This emergency proclamation will also direct the Department of health and the state Health Care Authority to immediately begin work on recommendations that would detail how to support the behavioral health needs of our children and youth over the next 12 months.