State emerging from pandemic’s grip; some precautions continue

Washington reopened June 30 for business and recreation opportunities, emerging from tight restrictions that were imposed during the pandemic to protect the public’s health.

People who are vaccinated against COVID-19 can return to their regular lives for the most part, with a few exceptions such as limits on large-scale events and mask requirements in some high-risk settings and for anyone who isn’t vaccinated. Otherwise, pre-pandemic conditions are now allowed, as long as workplace safety requirements from the state Department of Labor and Industries are followed, according to the state Department of Health (DOH).

Individual counties and businesses can have their own, more protective requirements, and authorities are urging the public people to respect any and all rules.

DOH also is encouraging people to keep doing their part to stop the spread of COVID-19. Reopening doesn’t mean the pandemic is over or that the risk of COVID-19 is gone, officials noted.

Under state rules, anyone who isn’t vaccinated must or should do the following:

  • Continue wearing masks when indoors in public places. They should also wear masks at crowded outdoor settings such as sporting events, fairs, parades and concerts, due to close proximity to other people.
  • Keep washing their hands and maintaining appropriate distance from others.

As businesses and other public functions return to normalcy, these precautions will help protect people who aren’t vaccinated, including children who aren’t eligible for vaccinations, DOH officials said.

About 35 percent of Washington residents who are 12 and older haven’t received any vaccination doses. DOH reported outbreaks of the virus are continuing wherever vaccination rates are low.

Everyone, vaccinated or not, is still required by the state to wear masks in airports, bus and ferry terminals and in public modes of transportation (planes, buses and ferries), schools and childcare centers, and healthcare facilities. In most other settings, people who are fully vaccinated don’t need to wear a mask.

“Even though the economic reopening represents a return to a more normal life for people who are vaccinated, masks will still be part of daily life for many,” said state Secretary of Health Umair Shah. “Masks will still need to be in your car, your pocket, your backpack as we transition into this new phase of recovery.”