COVID-19 state of emergency will end Oct. 31, Gov. Inslee says
Washington's COVID-19 state of emergency is coming to an end.
Driving the news: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday that the state's last 10 COVID-19 emergency orders will expire Oct. 31.
- That includes Inslee's underlying order declaring Washington to be in a pandemic state of emergency, which has been in place since Feb. 29, 2020.
Why it matters: Under Washington law, a state of emergency gives the governor wide authority to ban activities he deems a threat to public "health, property or the public peace.”
- Once the order is lifted, it will diminish Inslee's ability to take steps such as banning group gatherings, activating the Washington National Guard and closing schools and businesses — actions he took earlier in the pandemic.
The backstory: For months, Republicans have chafed at Inslee's ongoing state of emergency, calling it unnecessary and an infringement on the powers of the Legislature.
- Most other states already ended their emergency orders. According to the National Academy for State Health Policy, only about a dozen others still have a COVID-19 emergency order in place.
Details: In addition to ending the civil emergency, the governor will also nix state-level requirements that education and health care workers be vaccinated against COVID-19. Those workplaces will be able to continue requiring inoculations if they choose, however.
- State workers will still be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 under a different Inslee directive, while hospital workers still need to wear face coverings under a separate order from the state Department of Health.
What they're saying: Even though the state of emergency is coming to an end, COVID remains a threat, killing more than 300 people a day nationally and at least 10 people daily in Washington state, the governor's office said.
- Public health officials continue to encourage people to mask in crowded indoor spaces and stay up to date on vaccines to help curb the spread of the virus.
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