Public Health — Seattle & King County will lift its requirement for vaccination status verification at indoor entertainment and recreational events including bars and restaurants and large outdoor events as of March 1, according to county officials.
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Washington’s universal indoor mask mandate will remain in place for now, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) said during a press conference Wednesday afternoon, but he added that he plans to announce next week a target date to lift the statewide restriction. Inslee did announce that the state’s current outdoor mask mandate, which applies to events with more than 500 people, would be lifted by Feb. 18.
If data — specifically admissions at hospitals across the state — suggest the indoor mandate can be safely removed without leading to a spike in cases, Inslee said, he expects that masks will be optional in a matter of “weeks rather than months.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Jay Inslee announced a vaccination mandate for K–12 educators and workers, an expansion of the indoor mask mandate, and a vaccination requirement for individuals in the State’s higher education institutions and for most childcare providers.
Similar to Inslee’s Aug. 9, announcement, which dictates that most State workers need to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 in order to maintain their employment, today the Governor expanded this requirement to K–12 educators, school staff, coaches, bus drivers, school volunteers, and others working in school facilities, who will have until the same date to become fully vaccinated or lose their jobs.
“We have kids who are under the age of twelve who are unable to get vaccinated,” Secretary of Health Umair A. Shah said at a press conference Wednesday. “The challenge that we’ve had is when kids go to school and they are unvaccinated, then masking really is one of your tools, but the other tool we have is adults around those kids [being vaccinated].”
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Seattle and King County officials are proudly touting a 70% COVID-19 vaccination rate. But Dr. Leo Morales says there is more work to be done, especially among Latinos and other communities of color where the vaccination rate hovers at 50%. Dr. Morales joins the Chino Y Chicano to talk about the pandemic’s impact on health disparities as well as “Adios COVID,” a project aimed at helping Latinos get vaccinated. Assistant dean of the University of Washington School of Medicine, Dr. Morales is also a professor and the co-director of the Latino Center for Health at the University of Washington.
Washington State is just a hair’s breadth away from reaching its goal of a 70% vaccination rate among people aged 16 and older, but Gov. Jay Inslee said in an afternoon press conference on June 9 that the state would essentially fully reopen on June 30, regardless of whether the state reaches its vaccination rate goal by that date.
This week, the Seattle Public School (SPS) District and the Seattle Education Association (SEA) resumed bargaining about when the return to in-person education for pre-K to first grade — as well as students enrolled in moderate to intensive special education service pathways — will happen and what it will look like. In a pandemic month that also featured a failed coup and the inauguration of our country’s first Black, Asian, and female vice president, SPS has already seen a school board member abruptly resign and the staff of a South End elementary school announce that they will refuse to return to in-person learning until it’s safe for their community to do so. With pressure mounting to reopen SPS as soon as possible and bargaining already strained, there is mounting evidence that suggests white families stand to benefit more and that their communities will face fewer impacts from a return to in-person learning.
In a Facebook message posted on Jan. 7, SPS board representative Eden Mack announced her resignation. Mack, who represents District 4 (which includes the neighborhoods of Magnolia, Queen Anne, and Southern Ballard) mentioned a “dysfunctional culture” and also stated, “The massive gap between the true cost of providing basic education in an urban school district and what the State provides is not imaginary.” Mack then went on to ask the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) of the state of Washington for an “intervention.”
Washington State has avoided a post-Thanksgiving surge in COVID-19 cases, but the state — particularly its hospital system — isn’t in the clear yet.
In a press conference on Dec. 16, Washington State Department of Health (DOH) Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy shared graphs from the DOH’s COVID-19 tracking dashboard that show case counts and hospitalizations, including ICU bed occupancy, are levelling off. The Emerald has shared these graphs below. But the trends aren’t yet level, and the state must go beyond just flattening the curve, DOH Health Sec. Dr. John Wiesman said.
Though officials say this year’s expanded flu vaccination clinic offerings are specifically meant to serve uninsured and underinsured communities of color and people experiencing homelessness, many of whom live in South Seattle, most of the clinics available in South Seattle appear to have relatively few open clinic slots.