March 18, 2021
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News and update from Washington state Gov.
The governor also announced a new state tool for vaccination scheduling and a playbook for vaccination sites.
Gov. Jay Inslee today announced that the statewide eviction moratorium will be extended through June 20, as well as upcoming vaccine eligibility expansion, including restaurant workers and Washingtonians 60 and older. He also announced that effective immediately, visitations at long-term care facilities and nursing homes may resume.
In addition, the state Department of Health (DOH) today launched a new web tool to help people find open vaccination appointments near them.
Eviction moratorium extension
The governor announced that the statewide eviction moratorium will be extended through June 30, 2021. The moratorium, first put in place exactly a year ago today, has been a vital protection for families struggling with the persistent economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic’s economic toll continues to burden many Washingtonians, particularly tenants,” Inslee said during a press conference Thursday.“People need these supports right now. There is no other way to look at it.”
Since the moratorium was first instituted, hundreds of millions of dollars have gone toward rental assistance — for both tenants and landlords. Additional rental assistance will be available through the recently passed American Rescue Plan Act from the federal government.
The governor signed two additional related proclamations yesterday; one relating to utility shutoffs and the other focusing on debt garnishment. Under the new proclamations, the utility shutoff moratorium is extended through July 31, and debt garnishment on federal pandemic payments is still prohibited.
Find the extended eviction moratorium proclamation here.
Vaccine eligibility expansion
The governor also announced that the next two tiers of those eligible for the vaccine will become eligible on March 31 due to steady dose and vaccination rate increases.
There are currently around three million Washingtonians currently eligible for the vaccine, with another estimated two million eligible by the end of the month, bringing the total to five million by the end of March — a much higher number than initially predicted.
“Because our doses are increasing and our daily vaccination rates remain around our goal, we are thrilled to announce that we can get this vaccine to more Washingtonians sooner than we initially thought,” Inslee said. “I encourage everyone, especially those who were among the first eligible but haven’t gotten a dose, to take advantage of this life-saving instrument.”
The expansion will open up appointments on March 31st for:
Anyone with two or more comorbidities
Anyone between the ages of 60 and 64
Anyone living in congregate settings (correctional facilities, group homes for those with disabilities, those experiencing homelessness, etc.)
Additional workers in congregate settings (restaurants, manufacturing, construction)
“As we advance through the next tiers of vaccine eligibility, we want to again encourage the people of Washington to continue to be patient,” said Michele Roberts, one of the DOH leaders for the state’s vaccine rollout. “Vaccine supply continues to increase and we have just a little more than a month before all adults are eligible on May 1st. Until then we encourage people to sign up as soon as you’re eligible, go get that shot in the arm, and help us bring an end to the pandemic.”
Long-term care visitations
Effective immediately, visitation at long-term care and nursing home facilities may resume, eliminating visitation phases, in accordance with guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Outdoor visitation remains the safest, preferred option, but indoor visitation will be permitted for visitors or residents who are fully vaccinated. Compassionate care visits will still be permitted, regardless of vaccination of either party.
“These new visitation guidelines are very welcome after a year that was filled with so much hardship and isolation,” said Bill Moss, assistant secretary, Department of Social and Health Services. “Thanks to the effectiveness of the vaccine, infection control procedures and previous visitation restrictions, we are now seeing a steady decline in facilities reporting COVID-19, which means long-term care facilities can begin implementing a process for in person visits.”
Indoor visitation is not allowed if there is a current active outbreak in a facility or for residents with confirmed cases of COVID-19 or in quarantine due to exposure to the virus.
Long-term care and nursing home facilities must follow Core Infection Prevention Principles, like symptom screening, environmental cleaning, PPE and testing, among other infection prevention tactics.
In order to improve access for eligible Washingtonians to find and make vaccination appointments, as well as provide more resources for vaccination sites statewide, the governor announced a myriad of public-private partnership efforts stemming from the Vaccine Action Command and Coordination System Center.
“Our success in getting more than 2.5 million doses administered to date is thanks to the efforts of many dedicated providers and public health professionals, as well as the National Guard,” Inslee said. “These public-partnerships with small and large Washington-based employers have helped us improve delivery of the vaccine to the people of Washington.”
This week, the Department of Health launched a new, user friendly web tool to help Washingtonians find a vaccination appointment. The web tool looks at various scheduling options from multiple providers to find a vaccination appointment easier and is available in multiple languages.
The web application was made possible by a number of partnerships with Washington companies, including Microsoft, Starbucks, Expedia, Costco, Prota Ventures, among others.
The state is also collaborating with Amazon to improve customer support for the state hotline for scheduling vaccination appointments. Starting next week, Amazon call center representatives will join existing hotline workers to schedule vaccine appointments for eligible Washingtonians who may have difficulty accessing or using technology needed to register online.
Finally, Challenge Seattle, an organization of CEOs from 20 of the largest employers in the Seattle area, will be publishing a Playbook for mass vaccination sites. This resource, for public and private organizations running or planning on setting up clinics, will help centralize best practices and lessons learned through the vaccine administration process here in Washington state.
“It’s another great day to be from Washington state,” Inslee said. “From protecting people’s housing to helping people see their loved ones and getting more Washingtonians vaccinated, we’re continuing to move forward toward recovery.”