Originally published on Gov. Jay Inslee’s Medium
Gov. Jay Inslee announced a two-week pause on movement in the Healthy Washington: Roadmap to Recovery reopening plan on May 4. Under the pause, every county will remain in its current phase. At the end of two weeks, each county will be re-evaluated.
The decision was made in consultation with the Washington State Department of Health and reflects current data suggesting Washington’s fourth wave has hit a plateau.
“We are at the intersection of progress and failure, and we cannot veer from the path of progress,” Inslee said on May 4. “Our economy is beginning to show early signs of growth thanks to some of our great legislative victories and we know vaccines are the ticket to further reopening — if we adhere to public health until enough people are vaccinated.”
For the past several weeks, epidemiologists have been following the state’s fourth COVID-19 wave, which now appears to be leveling out. The fourth wave has been less severe and case counts and mortalities have not been tied in rates of increase as they have in the past.
“The two-week pause provides time to see which direction we are heading and whether we are turning the corner on the [fourth] wave while we continue to do everything we possibly can to get more people vaccinated — especially younger adults — to decrease future risk,” Seattle and King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin said. “Our best path out of the painful cycle of COVID-19 resurgences and restrictions — and for a return to normalcy as quickly as possible — is by getting vaccinated as soon as possible. As more people get vaccinated, the number of infections and hospitalizations will go down and all of us will be safer.”
The changes in data throughout the fourth wave have been attributed to increasing vaccination rates, shortening hospital stays and lessening the severity of the illness. The state’s early vaccine prioritization has also been tied to improved data and decreasing mortality rates in the state’s most vulnerable populations.
“Vaccines are one of the most important tools we have to fight this pandemic,” said Umair Shah, MD, MPH, secretary, Department of Health. “This ‘pause’ will allow our partners to advance their efforts to vaccinate individuals, families, and work with businesses to continue to reopen safely.”
Vaccines are now available to all Washingtonians 16 and up. To find an appointment, visit VaccineLocator.doh.wa.gov.
“While we’re pausing today, it doesn’t mean we have a clear path out of these phases either. We have a choice in these next couple weeks to get vaccinated and take more control over the course of this pandemic,” Inslee said. “If we can do the right thing together, we can pull through. I am confident and believe that if more people continue to get vaccinated and mask up, we can get our numbers down.”