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Inslee Adds More Incentives for Vaccines, But Reopening State Before June 30 Is Uncertain

Will a lottery drawing perk help lead to an earlier full reopening for restaurants?

A blue-gloved hand pulls a COVID vaccine-labeled vial from a row of similar vials.
There will be five weekly lottery drawings for those who have received the COVID vaccine in Washington, with prizes totaling $2 million.

Washington is throwing around some cash for vaccinations — whether it will help reopen the economy sooner than planned is another story. On Thursday, June 3, Gov. Jay Inslee announced a slew of incentives for people to get COVID inoculations, including entering vaccinated folks into weekly statewide lottery drawings for prizes totaling $2 million in cash (similar to existing programs in states like Ohio). There will also be higher education tuition and expense assistance, sporting event tickets, gift cards, and even some Nintendo Switches given away. These incentives are an addition to some of the smaller perks in the hospitality industry, including free beers for shots at some local breweries.

But the pace will have to pick up significantly in order to fully reopen the economy — and restaurants at 100 capacity — sooner rather than later. About 63 percent of Washingtonians have received one dose of the COVID vaccine, and around 47 percent are fully vaccinated. Inslee has said that if at least 70 percent have initiated vaccinations, a full reopening could happen earlier than his initial target date of June 30, and he would lift most COVID restrictions immediately upon confirming that number.

King County, along with the entire state, is still in phase 3 of Washington’s reopening plan, which permits restaurants and bars to have indoor dining at 50 percent. Once June 30 comes around (or the state hits that 70 percent mark), they’ll have no capacity restrictions. At the moment, it doesn’t look like the state will reach the vaccination goal before the end of June at the current pace, Washington officials said, which is why many will be watching closely to see if the new incentives boost the numbers.

But another number to watch in King County is the percent of people 16 years of age or older who are fully vaccinated. On May 20, the local health department issued a directive that strongly urged people to keep their masks on in most indoor settings, whether fully vaccinated or not. The directive caused some confusion, since it was a tad stricter than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance that said those who are fully vaccinated could resume many indoor activities without masks. But once King County hits the 70 percent fully vaccinated threshold for adults, then the county’s mask directive will be lifted. Right now, that number stands at almost 67 percent.