Sep 8, 2022 - News

COVID-19 state of emergency will end Oct. 31, Gov. Inslee says

Photo illustration of Washington Governor Jay Inslee with lines radiating from him.
Photo Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Karen Ducey/Getty Images

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.

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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