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caption: Mike Gaunt of Seattle celebrates after receiving a Covid-19 vaccine from volunteer registered nurse Amy Rioux on Wednesday, April 7, 2021, at Island Drug in Oak Harbor. "I don't want to go crazy and think I have a new lease on life, but it kind of feels like it," said Gaunt. "It's like Christmas."
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Mike Gaunt of Seattle celebrates after receiving a Covid-19 vaccine from volunteer registered nurse Amy Rioux on Wednesday, April 7, 2021, at Island Drug in Oak Harbor. "I don't want to go crazy and think I have a new lease on life, but it kind of feels like it," said Gaunt. "It's like Christmas."
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

If 140,000 more people get vaccinated, Washington state could reopen early

140,000.

That’s how many more people need to get their first vaccine for Washington state to fully reopen. That will mean no more masking requirements for vaccinated people, and no restrictions on capacity at restaurants and other indoor spaces.

Restrictions will lift by June 30 or sooner if we hit the much-talked-about 70% vaccination rate for residents age 16 and older.

We’re almost there: Currently, we are at 67 percent of people having at least one shot.

The governor's office said they don't expect to hit that this week, but it's a moving target. Regardless of whether we hit it early or not, we do know that the end of the month is set for the state to reopen.

For fully vaccinated people, this means a return to pre-pandemic life. For unvaccinated people, rules will remain, like having to wear masks indoors, or in crowded settings outdoors. There will also still be restrictions on large events.

State officials are saying once we re-open, please respect the rules of the room. That means if an individual business or a local jurisdiction is still asking you to mask up, even if you're vaccinated, they want you to respect that.

When vaccinations stagnated, officials implemented a cash lottery for residents who have been vaccinated. They believe it’s helping; they're looking at data to work out how the difference it's making.

There are other incentives out there for folks as well, like protecting themselves or others, and even reaching this goal of an early reopening.

The virus is still out there in its many variant forms. State officials are keeping a close eye on the Delta variant, which has wreaked havoc in India, but it's not a major player here at this point. It makes up about 6% of variant cases, and the vaccine seems to be holding against it.

They’re not seeing a huge increase in hospitalizations and deaths because of it right now. It's something that they'll continue to monitor, but at this point in time, it's not the biggest player when it comes to those variants in the state.

State epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist says the B.1.1.7 variant, the one first identified in the United Kingdom, is still the biggest variant of concern here. It's over half of the variant cases were saying.

Re-opening is a big mental milestone for a lot of people. But hitting this 70% goal doesn't mean that this is all over.

Said State Secretary of Health Umair Shah:

“It's not over until it truly is over, and we are really concerned that folks are going to think that we're at 70%, and therefore you don't have to worry about anything. In fact, that may mean that vaccinations drop off because people think that we've already had a statewide goal and so ‘I didn't get my vaccine, but that's okay because someone else got it.’ We don't want that to be the message. We want that message to continue to be get vaccinated.”

So we are seeing the cases go down in most places across the state, but the message remains the same as it has from health officials for months now, which is we need to get as many people as possible vaccinated.

Produced for the web from an interview between host Kim Malcolm and reporter Kate Walters.