Aug 9, 2022 - COVID

Washington says goodbye to most COVID emergency orders

COVID rearview mirror
Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

Gov. Jay Inslee is phasing out a dozen COVID-19 emergency orders, which will leave only 10 in place — a massive drop from the 85 in effect earlier in the pandemic.

Why it matters: The end of the vast majority of the state's COVID-19 emergency orders shows how government mandates are taking a backseat at this stage of the pandemic, letting business owners and individuals decide for themselves which precautions to follow.

Details: Inslee announced late last month that he would eliminate 12 emergency orders, most of which deal with health care regulations, with the directives set to expire by the end of October.

What they're saying: Mike Faulk, a spokesperson for Inslee, wrote in an email to Axios that the governor's ability to rescind so many emergency orders "means what we did worked."

  • "We adapted the best response and the best tools to keep people safe, saving thousands of lives and averting far worse impacts seen elsewhere," Faulk wrote.

The backdrop: Still, Inslee’s use of his executive authority irked Republicans, who have criticized the governor for continuing to declare a state of emergency with no end in sight.

  • Under Washington law, the governor’s emergency declaration gives him broad power to ban activities he deems a threat to public “health, property or the public peace."
  • “10 is not zero,” Senate Minority Leader John Braun (R-Centralia) told Axios of the governor’s continued use of emergency orders. “I think it is disrespectful to the other branches of government.”

Flashback: Inslee’s original February 2020 emergency order, which remains in effect, also activated the Washington National Guard as part of the state’s pandemic response.

What's next: It's unclear when the governor will lift his remaining emergency proclamations.

  • Faulk told Axios on Monday that lifting the orders will be a decision reached in consultation with expert advisers, as "the governor does his best to settle on the safest way to proceed out of the pandemic."

The big picture: While COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are far below where they were in January, transmission rates remain high in nearly all Washington counties.

  • In late July, an average of about 100 people statewide were being hospitalized daily with COVID-19, according to the state Department of Health.
  • Meanwhile, an average of 10 people statewide were dying daily from the disease as of early July, in the latest complete data available.
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