(The Center Square) — Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday that he will lift Washington’s COVID-19 state of emergency by the end of October, after more than two-and-a-half years of emergency rule.
“I am confident now that we have reached a significant milestone in the COVID effort,” Inslee said at the top of the afternoon press conference. “We are now in a position to be able to continue our efforts against COVID in multiple ways without the necessity of an emergency order, a declaration by the governor of the state of Washington. Accordingly, I am announcing today that the emergency declaration will lapse on October 31st.”
On February 29, 2020, Inslee declared a statewide emergency in response to the pandemic. Under the state of emergency, the governor issued scores of additional proclamations ranging from shelter-in-place orders to school closures to a moratorium on evictions to vaccine and mask mandates.
“We don’t need to spend a lot of time reflecting on the journey, except to know we do have some more work to do against COVID,” Inslee said. “The effort against COVID will continue. But the necessity of an emergency order in order to accomplish those mission statements is no longer necessary.”
Nearly three-quarters of Inslee’s 85 emergency orders related to the virus have already been lifted, according to the Governor’s Office, and an additional 13 health care related orders will end on Oct. 27. The remaining 10 orders, including the underlying state of emergency, will be lifted on Oct. 31.
Inslee touted his emergency declaration as successful in saving the lives of tens of thousands of Washingtonians.
“If we had not taken some of these actions, if we had had the same fatality rate of the some of the other states…we would have lost an additional 19,000 lives in the state of Washington,” the governor said. “Those are lives we saved because we acted.”
A statewide masking order issued by the state Department of Health will remain in place for health care and long-term care settings. Mask requirements will also remain in effect for correctional facilities under certain circumstances.
Vaccination requirements for health care and education workers will end, but employers will continue to be able to require them if they choose. Inslee has already announced that COVID-19 vaccinations will remain a condition of employment for most Washington state agencies.