OLYMPIA, Wash. — Governor Jay Inslee announced Thursday afternoon that he will end all remaining COVID-19 emergency orders and the state of emergency by the end of October.
Nearly 75% of Inslee's 85 COVID-19 emergency orders have already been lifted, the Governor's Office said in a release. An additional 13 healthcare-related orders will end Oct. 27. The remaining 10 orders will be lifted on Oct. 31, including the underlying state of emergency.
“We’ve come a long way the past two years in developing the tools that allow us to adapt and live with COVID-19,” Inslee said. “Ending this order does not mean we take it less seriously or will lose focus on how this virus has changed the way we live. We will continue our commitments to the public’s well-being, but simply through different tools that are now more appropriate for the era we’ve entered.”
Inslee is waiting to lift the orders until Oct. 31 to allow some sectors, such as healthcare, to come into compliance after being given temporary waivers due to issues such as staffing.
Public health leaders stressed the importance of vaccines and masks to keep communities safe even as the state's emergency orders are set to end. COVID-19 kills more than 10 people a day in Washington state and over 300 people nationally.
Inslee's Office said in a release that 433,000 lives would have been saved across the United States if the country had the same death rate from COVID-19 as Washington state.
“Governor Inslee’s rescission of these remaining emergency orders marks an important transition for the state of Washington, but that does not mean that COVID-19 is not in our state anymore,” said Umair A. Shah, Secretary of Health. “We must move forward from a pandemic response to adapting our behaviors to coexist with the COVID-19 virus. Through the continued diligence of Washingtonians, combined with access to resources like the Say Yes! COVID Test program, WA Notify, and Care-A-Van, we will continue our path to recovery.”
Inslee said the statewide Face Covering Order issued by the state Department of Health will remain in place for health care and long-term care settings, as well as correctional facilities under certain circumstances after the state of emergency ends. Inslee said he will explore options to ensure there are protections for workers who choose to wear a mask in their workplace.
Vaccination requirements for health care and education workers will end, but employers will continue to be able to require them if they choose, Inslee said.
Most Washington state agencies will keep COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment.
“I can’t express enough how grateful I am for all the health care workers, public health teams, and other frontline workers who have helped save thousands of lives during the past two years and will continue to support our communities in staying safe and healthy,” Inslee said.