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Reopening Plan Tied to Vaccine Rates? Inslee Says It’s Not Out of the Question

For now, he’s sticking with the current metrics on COVID cases and hospitalizations, which aren’t looking good for King County

A view of vaccine vials against a light blue background with labels that read “COVID-19”
COVID vaccine appointments are opening up more in the Seattle area.

On Thursday, April 29, Gov. Jay Inslee held his weekly press conference, and there were two major COVID-related points he hammered home repeatedly. One was that more dangerous new variants (which Inslee referred to as “COVID 2.0”) was driving cases up at an alarming rate in Washington; the second emphasis was that vaccines were the primary tool to stop them. As such, a reporter at KOMO 4 asked the governor whether the state’s reopening plan should be tied to vaccination rates, and Inslee didn’t rule it out.

“We’ve given thought to this,” Inslee said. “I do think in the next several weeks, you will see increasing policies by the state and other entities, like colleges and cruise lines and everything else, that will create more incentives for folks. So that is a possibility going forward.”

For now, though, Inslee and state health officials are sticking to the current reopening plan. Counties currently in phase 3 must have COVID cases below 200 per 100,000 people over the previous two week period, and hospitalizations below 5 per 100,000 people over the previous seven days, in order to maintain the status quo. If a county fails on both accounts, then it will need to fall back to phase 2 and reduce indoor dining from 50 percent to 25 percent. The health department will review the numbers next Tuesday, May 4, instead of the usual Monday assessment, in order to make decisions based on the latest numbers.

In King County, things aren’t looking good on that front. As of earlier this week, the region was above both phase-maintaining thresholds set by the state, and both Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and King County health director Patty Hayes both issued warnings to prepare for a backslide. If Seattle restaurants do have to reduce capacity next week, the restrictions would go into effect May 7 and last for at least three weeks.

There is some good news for those tracking the rates of local vaccinations, though. The most recent data shows around 60 percent of adults in Seattle have gotten at least one shot to date, and nearly 35 percent are fully vaccinated. Appointments are starting to open up a bit more as well, with vaccination sites across the city showing thousands of open appointments this week. Further south in King County, sites in Auburn and Kent are offering 1,000 shots daily with no-appointment necessary. As part of his press conference on Thursday, Inslee discussed the need to make getting a vaccine easier and urged Washingtonians still reluctant to get a shot to reconsider their hesitancy.