Tag Archive for: COVID-19

Olympia, WA — Governor Jay Inslee announced today a new statewide reopening plan for 2021.

“Today we are announcing a new plan — called Healthy Washington — to move forward in 2021 once we see COVID activity reduce, hospitals that aren’t overrun with COVID patients, people continuing to mask, and all the other personal steps we know work to prevent infection,” Inslee said.

Inslee made it clear the state is not moving forward in a big way today, but he said that a new plan is needed. This new reopening plan goes into effect Jan. 11, 2021, and includes a “small resumption” of some activities across the state.

In contrast to last year’s Safe Start program, this plan has two phases at inception. More phases will be added when COVID activity is significantly reduced, Inslee said. Another big change is that Healthy Washington will also be governed by region, not by county.

“Because we know that health care systems are regional and we know that the virus does not respect county boundaries,” Inslee said. He added that this makes sense from both a public health perspective and a “health care delivery” one, as well.

Counties will be grouped into eight regions based on health system resources over a geographic area, the governor explained. The four metrics to track progress will be COVID-19 hospitalizations, ICU capacity, case data, and test positivity.

“All four targets have to be met for a region to reopen more activities,” Inslee said.

All regions will start in Phase 1, according to Inslee. There is no application for moving to Phase 2, but rather will be decided based on information regularly collected by the Washington State Department of Health (DOH). In order to advance, regions must show a 10 percent decreasing trend in case rates; a 10 percent decrease in COVID hospital admission rates; an ICU occupancy rate that’s less than 90 percent; and a test positivity rate of less than 10 percent.

In Phase 2, restaurants may open indoor dining at 25 percent capacity; this also applies to indoor fitness centers. Sports competitions may also resume in Phase 2 with audience limits. Wedding and funeral ceremonies will be able to increase their capacities from current limits, as well.

“It allows us to now see a path forward,” said Dr. Umair Shah, the state Secretary of Health, who joined today’s conference call. “We are not there yet as a state, we are all committed to getting there, though, as a state.”

Shah did say the possibility exists that regions could move backward from Phase 2 to Phase 1. The DOH will closely monitor the data, and Shah said DOH will start posting the most recent analyses each Friday, beginning this week. Phase upgrades will be announced on Mondays.


To remain in Phase 2, regions must meet at least 3 metrics:

  • Decreasing or flat trend in two-week rate of COVID-19 cases per 100K population
  • Decreasing or flat trend in two-week rate new COVID-19 hospital admission rates per 100K population
  • ICU occupancy (total — COVID-19 and non-COVID-19) of less than 90%
  • COVID-19 test positivity rate of <10%.

“We do not want to fear COVID-19, but we have to respect COVID-19,” Shah said. “It has been a formidable foe throughout this last year, and we have to do everything we can to move forward.”

The eight regions are as follows:

  • Central: King, Pierce, Snohomish
  • East: Adams, Asotin, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Stevens, Whitman
  • North: Island, San Juan, Skagit, Whatcom
  • North Central: Chelan, Douglas, Grant, Okanogan
  • Northwest: Clallam, Jefferson, Kitsap, Mason
  • South Central: Benton, Columbia, Franklin, Kittitas, Walla Walla, Yakima
  • Southwest: Clark, Cowlitz, Klickitat, Skamania, Wahkiakum
  • West: Grays Harbor, Lewis, Pacific, Thurston
Inslee divided the state into eight new regions.

Inslee said Washington has avoided overwhelming the state’s health care systems throughout this pandemic so far through rigorous safety measures, such as physical distancing and masking, as well as social and economic restrictions. This new recovery system aims to safely ease some restrictions while also maintaining crucial hospital capacity, ensuring care for Washingtonians that need it and paving the way for economic recovery.

“No one was untouched by the effects of the pandemic in 2020; many have and continue to suffer through no fault of their own,” Inslee said during a press conference Tuesday. “We aren’t out of this yet, but we are close to turning the corner on COVID-19 and this third wave of infection.”

Olympia, WA — Governor Jay Inslee today announced a one-week extension of the current “Stay Safe–Stay Healthy” proclamation, along with the statewide restrictions imposed, according to a statement from his office. The extension of the statewide restrictions will now expire on January 11, 2021. No changes were made in the proclamation aside from the expiration date.

“Our consistent mission has been keeping Washingtonians safe and ensuring health care system and hospital capacity,” Inslee said. “We understand the profound impact COVID is having on our healthcare system, families, and businesses, but I am heartened by the number of Washingtonians who continue to do the right thing. If we continue distancing from others, wearing facial coverings and avoiding social gatherings, we will make it to the other side of this pandemic together.”

The restrictions, set in place due to the statewide rise in COVID-19 cases, was set to expire on January 4, which includes a ban on indoor dining and indoor gyms.

Inslee announced these activity in mid-November after record-breaking levels of COVID-19 spread across the Evergreen state. Those rules were set to expire Dec. 14, but that was pushed to January 4.

Washington’s Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah sees “some improvement” with the restrictions in place, but cautions that the state is “not out of the woods.”

“We want to continue to see those numbers come down,” said Shah. He also said the week extension gives business owners some certainty of what they can expect after the upcoming holiday weekend. He did not say what might happen after January 11.

The Governor’s office said an updated reopening plan is currently being developed to provide a pathway for businesses and workers impacted by this order to reopen safely. The updated plan will be released next week. 

Here is a link to the full proclamation: https://www.governor.wa.gov/sites/default/files/20-25.11%20-%20COVID-19%20Stay%20Safe-Stay%20Healthy%20%28tmp%29.pdf?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

Washington, DC — Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-03) applauds the final agreement on a recently passed COVID relief package in the House and Senate.

With so many Americans out of work, small businesses on the brink of permanent closure, and families struggling to make ends meet, I’m relieved to have helped Congress reach agreement on another COVID relief package that will provide immediate aid to individuals and communities,” Herrera Beutler said. “I’ve been tirelessly working to get this relief to those who need it, both by developing the framework for the agreement with the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus and keeping the pressure on Democrat leadership with a discharge petition to circumvent D.C. gridlock and pass a small business relief bill.”

“This relief should have been delivered to the American people months ago. Nevertheless, residents will benefit immensely from additional forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans that have been small business lifelines, an unemployment insurance extension, direct cash payments, assistance for our frontline health care providers, and funding for more readily available COVID vaccines and testing.

“I remain confident that America will get through this crisis and thrive on the other side, and I’m going to continue doing everything I can to maintain the bridge to get us there.”

COVID relief legislation highlights:  

  • $284.5 billion to reopen and strengthen the Paycheck Protection Program for first-and second-time borrowers
  • Federal unemployment benefits of $300 per week, for up to 10 weeks, for the period of December 26, 2020 – March 14, 2021
  • $600 Economic Impact Payments for adults and dependents
  • $82 billion for schools and universities to assist with reopening for safe in-person learning
  • $10 billion for grants to childcare centers to help providers safely reopen
  • $68 billion for vaccine purchase, distribution, testing, and existing provider relief fund

Olympia, WA — Governor Jay Inslee issued new statewide recommendations Wednesday that encourages Washington schools to begin a phased return to in-person instruction that should begin with younger students.

Citing new data that indicates COVID-19 doesn’t spread as prominently among young children, Inslee said he is confident that following proper safety measures will control virus spread in schools. He emphasized the wearing masks at all times, maintaining six feet of physical distance whenever possible, improved ventilation, and increased cleaning.

“Now that we have a better understanding of how the disease spreads and have developed health and safety protocols specific to schools, we are in a better position, we have more confidence when it comes to phased-in, in-person learning,” he said.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal said he doesn’t believe remote learning has been successful “for a lot of kids.” Reykdal said his ability to re-open schools is limited. Inslee echoed that sentiment.

Inslee said that while he does have the ability to close schools for emergencies, he does “not have the statutory authority to make them reopen.”

He is, however, hoping that these new recommendations will give school districts the confidence to begin in-class instruction.

Inslee’s new reopening guidelines include the following:

  • Districts in counties where COVID cases are less than 50 residents per 100,000 people: In-person learning should be made available to all students.
  • Districts in counties where COVID cases are between 50 and 350 residents per 100,000 people: Districts are encouraged to phase in in-person learning, starting with elementary and middle school students.
  • Districts in counties where COVID cases are greater than 350 per 100,000 people: Districts are encouraged to bring elementary students “and those with the highest needs” back into classrooms in small groups of 15 or fewer.

Clark County currently has 450 cases per 100,000.

“Our teachers and school administrators have done a phenomenal job navigating unprecedented challenges,” Inslee said. “This updated guidance provides a framework and will help schools plan and prepare so that when the metrics reach the appropriate level, they’re able to resume in-person instruction quickly.”

Inslee advises against high schools returning to classrooms until “areas see a plateau and decrease in cases.”


Everett, WA — The first shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine, manufactured by Pfizer, arrived in Washington state today, as medical professionals start working to distribute it to citizens most at-risk.

The vaccine is authorized by the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, which is comprised of health experts from Washington, California, Oregon and Nevada. The workgroup has been meeting in recent weeks to review the vaccine to ensure its safety.

Governor Inslee’s office said the first groups to receive the vaccine will be those most at risk, including healthcare workers, firefighters, paramedics, ambulance drivers and others who come into direct contact with COVID-19 patients. Inslee said he would get the vaccine himself once he is eligible. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it is 95 percent effective. 

Michele Roberts, acting Assistant Secretary of the Washington State Department of Health, said this first round of 62,000 doses is not enough. 

“It’s tight right now. 62,000 doses of vaccine is not enough for that whole 1A group, which is at least a half-million people,” Roberts said.

Roberts is optimistic, though. The DOH believes it will take two months to administer the two-dose vaccination to frontline workers, and that it could take several months to get it to the general population. 

By the end of of December, the state is expected to get a total of 220, doses. Roberts also expects the Moderna vaccine to be approved for distribution within two weeks. Pending approval, Washington would receive 180,000 doses of Moderna’s version before the New Year.

Pfizer’s vaccine offers some protection after the first dose, with nearly full protection after the second dose, according to the Food and Drug Administration. The information was made public before a meeting 10 days ago of the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, or VRBPAC — an advisory group to the FDA that voted to grant emergency use of the vaccine to the general public.

Olympia, WA — Gov. Jay Inslee, along with the Washington State Department of Health (DOH), on Monday announced the launch of WA Notify, an easy-to-use anonymous exposure notification tool that’s been created stop the spread of COVID-19. 

Inslee said by “adding WA Notify to their smartphones, Washington residents will be alerted if they spent time near another WA Notify user who later tests positive for COVID-19.”

The app uses technology developed by Google and Apple and works without collecting or revealing any location or personal data, Inslee’s office said.

“Secure, private and anonymous exposure notification technology is an important tool for Washington,” Inslee said Monday. “We’ve deployed WA Notify in 29 languages so as many Washington residents as possible can protect themselves, their loved ones and their communities. I encourage everyone to start using WA Notify today so we can continue to work together to contain this virus.”

Data models for three counties in Washington found that COVID-19 infections and deaths could be reduced if even a small percentage of people enabled WA Notify. 

Inslee was joined by outgoing Secretary of Health John Wiesman, who emphasized this tool will stop the virus from spreading. Studies from Oxford University and Stanford also show that the more people who use exposure notification technology, the more effective it is.

“WA Notify complements the actions Washington residents are already taking, like wearing masks, physical distancing and keeping gatherings small,” said Wiesman. “We’re excited to be joining the states already using this safe and secure technology and encourage all Washingtonians to join the effort.”

Several states including Virginia, New York and Colorado are already using this tool. Countries successfully using this technology include Ireland, Canada and Germany.

The voluntarily activated app uses Bluetooth technology to exchange random codes with the phones of other users they are near. And, according to Inslee, it does this without revealing a user’s identity or location. Users who test positive for COVID-19 can enter a verification code provided by public health into WA Notify, so that other users who have been near them within the last 14 days can be anonymously alerted and take appropriate action.

The WA Notify tool is free and can be enabled in iPhone settings or downloaded as an app from the Google Play Store for Android phones. Users can opt out at any time.

“People are understandably concerned these days about being tracked and having their personal information compromised,” said Associate Professor Stefano Tessaro with the UW Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering. “However, the technology behind WA Notify has been vetted by security and privacy experts across the world, and it does not collect or store any information that personally identifies its users.”

Before launching the tool, Washington state received a recommendation to adopt the technology from an oversight committee which included security and civil liberties experts and a diverse group of community leaders.

To learn more:

  • Visit WANotify.org to learn how to install the tool to your smartphone or to learn more.
  • Information about WA Notify is available in multiple languages — choose from the full list at WANotify.org/languages.

Vancouver, WA — Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, the last Clark County Public Health update was Wednesday morning (included all cases reported to them on Tuesday). Today’s update includes new cases reported to Public Health on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

  • 849 new cases (average about 170 cases/day Wed-Sun)
  • 8,841 cases to date
  • 397 active cases (currently in isolation period)
  • 77 COVID-19 patients hospitalized
  • 9 persons under investigation (PUIs) for COVID-19 hospitalized

The health department provided this reminder about active cases: “This reflects the number of confirmed cases who are currently in their isolation period. For most people, isolation is based on when symptoms began, not when they received the positive test result. Some individuals learn they are COVID-19 positive and only have a few days of isolation remaining.”

You may also learn more on their COVID data webpage: https://clark.wa.gov/public-health/covid-19-data

If you’ve been in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19, please stay home for 14 days from your last contact with the sick person.

Staying home for the full 14 days – even if you have a negative COVID-19 test – is important because it can take up to 14 days for an infected person to develop symptoms. But people can spread COVID-19 before they know they are sick – up to two days before symptoms develop.

People in quarantine should not go to work, school, child care or church, or participate in other social or community activities. This ensures that if a person in quarantine does get sick, they don’t spread the virus to others.


Olympia, WA — Governor Jay Inslee warned Tuesday that hospitalizations statewide continue to rise in rates similar to the early days of the pandemic as coronavirus continue surge and indicated he may expand business restrictions. 

He repeated his concern about families meeting for the Thanksgiving holiday, but emphasized that Washington is doing better than other states by limiting contact this weekend. 

Inslee spoke with his wife, Trudi, in a public address on November 12 that prohibited families and friends gathering on Thanksgiving. He mandated that families stay home with immediate members of their household.

Inslee is clearly concerned about the direction the state is headed in with its COVID-19 cases. The state’s cases are now soaring at 300 per 100,000 residents when the desired rate is 25 per 100,000.

Clark County’s COVID-19 activity rate is climbing rapidly. This week, the rate increased to more than 359 cases per 100,000 residents – up from 254 cases per 100,000 last week.

“We’re concerned Thanksgiving gatherings will cause our case numbers to rise even higher,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County Public Health Director. “Please celebrate safely and only gather with the people you live with.”

The increase in COVID cases has increased the possibility that local hospitals may need to suspend elective procedures and non-emergency operations. 

“We cannot tolerate the continuation of that straight up curve for very much longer,” Inslee said. “And what we have done is we’ve hard targeted reductions of social interaction in the hope that we can change the slope of that curve. But if it does not, we will have no other option but to extend those restrictions to other parts of the economy.”

Inslee also expressed concern for the frontline healthcare workers who have worked in challenging conditions for more than eight months. He’s worried about their well being as many are hitting burn out.


Vancouver, WA — Multiple Clark County health leaders are urging local residents to mask up, physical distance, and follow COVID-19 guidelines to slow down the present virus “explosion” in Southwest Washington.

“The COVID-19 case numbers are exploding,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, Director of Clark County Public Health. “They are going up at an alarming rate.”

Eight weeks ago, the county averaged 28 cases per day, last week it averaged 120 cases per day, and Monday the health department reported Clark County added 310 new virus cases from the last three days. Melnick said this is the highest weekend number reported since the pandemic began.

The county reports that 42 percent of COVID-19 infections trace back to households, while small intimate gatherings make up 18 percent of the infection total.

At Monday’s press briefing, Melnick, along with Dr. Ray Lee, Medical Chief of Staff at PeaceHealth, and Dr. Hoa Ly, Medical Director at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center, said they are calling on citizens to take personal responsibility to stop the virus spread.

Lee said “the stakes of our personal decisions before us right now cannot be higher” while Ly said his hospital is postponing some elective procedures to ensure more beds are available for the expected uptick in virus-related hospitalizations.

The health department said 50 people are currently hospitalized for COVID-19, and 76 percent of licensed hospital beds are currently occupied, which is four percent below the state’s desired 80 percent target.

“We are fully capable of making sacrifices for a higher calling,” Ly said. “We are capable of making difference for ourselves and our loved ones. The virus can only do what we allow it to do. This is in our power to defeat this virus if we choose to work together.”


Clark County by the numbers — to-date:

Confirmed positive COVID-19 cases to-date: 6,470
Total negative tests to date: 89,681
Hospitalizations to-date: 432
Deaths to-date: 80
% of Deaths: 1.7%

Clark County Public Health’s Monday COVID-19 update: 

  • 6,470 cases to date
  • 1 new death (80 to date) — a woman in her 80s with underlying conditions
  • 482 active cases
  • 50 COVID-19 patients hospitalized
  • 6 persons under investigation (PUIs) for COVID-19 hospitalized 
Dr. Alan Melnick, Director, Clark County Public Health

A reminder about active cases: This reflects the number of confirmed cases who are currently in their isolation period. For most people, isolation is based on when symptoms began, not when they received the positive test result. Some individuals learn they are COVID-19 positive and only have a few days of isolation remaining.

Olympia, WA — Governor Jay Inslee issued broad new statewide restrictions and shutdowns for restaurants, gyms, theaters and all indoor gatherings during a Sunday morning address. 

Most of the orders are effective at 11:59 pm Monday, with the exception of restaurants and bars, which go into effect at 11:59 pm on Tuesday. The order expires on December 14.

“In order to slow the spread of rapidly increasing COVID cases in our state, and ensure that hospital and medical systems are not overwhelmed, we are taking the very difficult but necessary steps to protect public health,” Inslee said. “We recognize this will cause financial hardship for many businesses and we are exploring ways to mitigate the impacts.”

He ordered restaurants and bars to shutdown indoor service and to limit outdoor service to parties of five or less. Indoor gyms and fitness centers must also shutdown, along with movie theaters, bowling alleys and museums. Indoor gatherings with people outside your household will be prohibited unless participants have quarantined for 14 days, tested negative and quarantine for seven days prior or receive a negative COVID-19 test within two days of the planned gathering.

“Indoor social gatherings from people outside your home are prohibited unless they have been quarantined for 14 days,” Inslee said. “You can get the virus in your own home.”

This is the most extensive mandate since Inslee’s March emergency stay at home order. The new orders do not apply to K-12 schools or the court system. They also do not apply to child care.

“Today, Sunday, November 15, 2020, is the most dangerous public health day in the last 100 years of our state’s history,” Inslee said. “A pandemic is raging in our state. Left unchecked, it will assuredly result in grossly overburdened hospitals and morgues; and keep people from obtaining routine but necessary medical treatment for non-COVID conditions.”

Despite a statewide mask mandate, which was issued in June, and current restrictions on businesses, the pandemic has been rapidly spreading in Washington. The state, for the last two weeks, has been breaking previous infection records almost daily. 

“We need to preserve our well being,” said Inslee. “I share your frustration, but we need to hold the pandemic down until the calvary arrives (referring to a vaccine).”

Two weeks ago, the state recorded a then-record 1,469 coronavirus infections. By Nov. 14, daily infections had increased more than 50 percent and stood at 2,233 infections, according to Dr. Kathy Lofy, State Health Officer. The day Inslee issued his stay-home order in March, there were 225 confirmed infections.

Outdoor social gatherings should be limited to no more than five people from outside your household, Inslee said. Religious services can continue, but must limit indoor attendance to 25 percent of capacity, or 200 people, whatever is less. Masks must be worn at all times and choirs, bands and congregational singing will be prohibited. Wedding and funeral ceremonies will be limited to 30 people. Receptions are prohibited.

Retail stores, including grocery stores, and malls must limit occupancy to 25 percent and must close food court seating.

Offices are required to mandate employees work from home, if possible, and must limit occupancy to 25 percent if they remain open. They must be closed to the public.

Long-term care facilities can accept visitors only in outdoor settings, with limited exceptions for end-of-life care and essential support personnel.

Personal services, such as barber shops and salons, are limited to 25 percent capacity. Real estate open houses are prohibited. Youth and adult sports are limited to outdoor only intrateam practices and athletes must wear masks.

Inslee acknowledged the financial hardship this will bring to businesses already suffering from existing mandates. He said the state has issued $25 million in grants, and there is an additional $50 million coming to help mitigate business challenges.

“This is not enough,” Inslee said. “We need the federal government to step up to the plate. Congress needs to help. And, we are looking at alternatives.”

Lofy is fearful of getting to 4,000 cases per day, which she said would overwhelm hospitals. 

Clint Wallace, an ICU nurse also spoke.

“We are exhausted, we are tired,” said Wallace. “It’s about adequate staffing, and COVID patients require more than normal patients. We are all close to burning out.”

Latest daily statewide COVID-19 case numbers.