On Thursday, February 17, Governor Jay Inslee announced that the statewide indoor mask requirement in place since August 23 will end on March 21. This includes businesses, schools, and childcare centers. This follows an announcement on February 9 that the statewide outdoor mask directive for people at gatherings of 500 or more people that had been in place since September 13 would sunset effective February 18. After March 21, individual businesses, schools and other entities will retain the ability to require masks for workers, customers, students, and staff.
The Governor noted that March 21 is approximately when our hospital system will return to normal functioning based on declining COVID-19 hospitalizations. Masks will continue to be required in health care settings such as hospitals, outpatient and dental offices, in addition to long-term care settings and correctional facilities. Federal law requires the use of masks on public transportation.
Our state’s 35 local public health agencies or health jurisdictions maintain the ability to enact public health measures in their individual communities in response to COVID-19, although on February 16, Public Health – Seattle and King County announced that effective March 1, King County is ending the local health order requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test for entry into restaurants and bars, indoor recreational events and establishments, or outdoor events.
Washington saw not only the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the United States on January 21, 2020, but also the first death from the virus five weeks later. Since that time, more than 1.4 million cases have been confirmed in our state, in addition to more than 11,000 deaths. As of February 14, 80.5% of Washingtonians 5 and older have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 72.7% of people 5 and older are fully vaccinated.
During the past two years, COP has effectively and collaboratively worked with leaders on our six member campuses as well as with our higher ed partners and state leaders to ensure the safety of our students, faculty, and staff and surrounding communities. This led to the development of a Campus Reopening Guide in June 2020 that includes baseline recommendations, setting-specific protocols related to residential life, food services, and transportation, and additional considerations. These principles were reaffirmed in 2021.
In January, the Washington State Department of Health updated their COVID-19 guidance for colleges and universities, while the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidance this month.
Additional COVID-19 resources are listed below:
- Washington State Coronavirus Response
- Washington State Department of Health
- Council of Presidents
- Central Washington University
- Eastern Washington University
- The Evergreen State College
- University of Washington
- Washington State University
- Western Washington University
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