Washington has officially reopened. Here’s what you need to know.
The days of social distancing and limited inner capacity are over.
Washington state lifted most of its remaining coronavirus restrictions on Wednesday. Most businesses can operate as they did it in early 2020 if they meet occupational safety requirements.
Governor Jay Inslee will stop in Seattle Thursday morning after visiting Spokane and Tacoma as part of a grand reopening celebration tour. The Inslee booth stop will include all the classics: a speech at Pike Place Market and a “Washington Ready” flag hoisted above the Space Needle.
Washington is one of the last four states to officially reopen. Oregon also reopens on Wednesday and New Mexico will lift restrictions on Thursday. Hawaii will reopen once 70% of eligible residents are fully immunized.
The state failed to meet its goal of having 70% of residents aged 16 and over with at least one shot before Wednesday. But it’s close. As of Tuesday, 68.8% of eligible residents have started vaccination.
After more than a year of various coronavirus policies, phases and advice, you might have many questions about our state of reopening. Here’s what you need to know.
Is social distancing over?
After June 30, there is no physical distancing requirement or capacity limit with the exception of large indoor events, defined as any event bringing together more than 10,000 people in an enclosed indoor space.
Negative testing or vaccine verification measurements will not be required, but are recommended for large indoor and outdoor events. Large indoor events that do not check vaccinations will be limited to 75% of capacity. These events include sporting events, concerts or conventions.
And the masks?
The mask’s mandate is still in place for those who are not vaccinated, to protect children too young to receive a vaccine, or those with autoimmune or other health issues that prevent them from getting vaccinated, according to the department. State of Health.
If you’re fully vaccinated, state guidelines largely align with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s mask guidelines that say masks are no longer needed in outdoor spaces and most indoor spaces.
Masks are still required for “high risk congregational” facilities such as health and long-term care facilities, prisons, schools, and public transportation.
What’s new in restaurants and other businesses?
Prior to Wednesday, shops, restaurants, bars, places of worship and fitness centers were only allowed to operate at 50% of capacity. Restaurants were also required to stop alcohol service before midnight, and outdoor seating was limited to a maximum of 10 people per table.
These restrictions are no longer. The state will also no longer actively encourage curbside collection and remote working.
Indoor and outdoor establishments like bowling alleys, museums, zoos, aquariums and other venues are also no longer limited to a maximum of 50% capacity or 400 people (which was the least).
Can companies still require masks?
Yes. Washington DOH encourages a “rule of the room” mindset, and counties and businesses are urged to institute stricter measures related to masking, distancing and hand washing.
What should employers do?
According to the state Ministry of Labor and Industry, employers should ensure that unvaccinated employees wear masks indoors. Employers should also verify immunization status with documents or a self-attestation before allowing employees not to wear masks.
Employers must also notify employees if they have been in contact with someone who tested positive for the coronavirus and report outbreaks of 10 or more employees to the Labor Department.
And sports ?
Stadiums are no longer limited to 50% of their capacity. Washington’s teams will be back at full capacity for their first home games after Wednesday’s reopening:
- July 2: Mariners against Texas Rangers; Storm Against Atlanta Dream
- July 7: Sounders vs. Houston Dynamo
- July 11: OL Reign against Kansas City
And the variants?
World Health Organization officials recently encouraged fully vaccinated people to continue wearing masks as the delta variant, first detected in India, spreads. However, these guidelines do not agree with the recommendations of the CDC and Washington state officials.
The DOH said on Tuesday that there are currently no plans to reinstate strict mask requirements for fear of the delta variant. However, the Washington Health Secretary changed the state’s masking guidelines to say that those who are not fully vaccinated should continue to wear masks indoors.
According to the CDC, current data suggests that vaccines licensed in the United States provide protection against most variants. But information is still limited and some variants can cause illness in fully vaccinated people.
Los Angeles County public health officials recently recommended that everyone, regardless of their immunization status, wear masks indoors.
Read more here.
Can i travel?
The state currently relies on the CDC travel advice, which encourages people to delay domestic travel until they are fully immunized. Travelers must wear a mask in a transit center or on a plane, bus or train.
If you are planning to travel to Canada, non-essential travel is still excluded, at least until July 21.
What questions do you have about reopening Washington? Email Seattle Times reporter Amanda Zhou at [email protected]