by Elizabeth Turnbull
In an online press briefing on Thursday, March 18, Gov. Jay Inslee announced vaccine eligibility for roughly 2 million more Washingtonians through the next two tiers of eligibility, debuted a new vaccine locator tool for obtaining appointments, and outlined more flexible guidelines on visitations for residents and visitors to long-term care facilities who have received the COVID-19 vaccine.
In addition to opening new vaccine eligibility, Inslee also announced that he is extending the State’s eviction moratorium through June 30 and extending the utility shutoff moratorium through July 31. This follows an announcement on Monday by Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan extending the City’s eviction moratorium through June 30.
In less than two weeks, beginning on March 31, people statewide from the ages of 60 to 64, restaurant workers, food service workers, manufacturing and construction workers, and other critical workers in congregate settings will be eligible for the vaccine. In addition, this round of eligibility includes people with two or more comorbidities, people living in congregate settings, and people experiencing homelessnes who live in or access services in congregate settings.
At a press briefing on Thursday, Inslee noted that the pace of vaccine eligibility has been faster than originally expected.
“This timeline is much faster than we would have predicted a couple months ago,” Inslee said. “Obviously we still want more doses — we’d take all the doses we can get as a matter of fact — but we’re going to continue to adapt our strategy as time goes on. But we should be very pleased right now.”
At the briefing, Inslee clarified that individuals mentioned in earlier eligibility tiers are still encouraged and eligible to get vaccinated. For example, someone who is over age 65 and mentioned in an earlier vaccine eligibility tier is still encouraged to get vaccinated even as members of other demographics, such as food service workers, are also becoming eligible.
In an effort to help residents find and schedule vaccination appointments more easily, yesterday the State also rolled out the Department of Health’s new vaccine locator tool, designed to help residents find vaccination appointments in relation to their zip code.
After a year of much isolation, particularly for people in long-term care facilities, rules are also changing to make indoor visitations a possibility for parties who have been vaccinated. While outdoor visitations are still preferred, as of today, if either the resident of a long-term care facility or their guest is vaccinated, these individuals will be allowed to take part in indoor visitations.
Responding to the recent mass shooting in Atlanta and the rise in hatred and violence against Asian Americans during the pandemic, Inslee opened the briefing by condemning acts of violence against Asians and Asian Americans in the U.S. and in Washington State.
“We need to recognize this as a scourge,” Inslee said. “It is not just in other states unfortunately — it is in our state as well, and we all have to wrap our arms in the embrace of our neighbors and community members who are Asian American to stand against this.”
Elizabeth Turnbull is a journalist with reporting experience in the U.S. and the Middle East. She has a passion for covering human-centric issues and doing so consistently.
Featured Image: Screenshot from an online press conference on March 18, 2021 in which Gov. Jay Inslee announced an extension of the statewide eviction moratorium through June 30, 2021.
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