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Washington state's COVID-19 state of emergency ends Monday

Washington state's COVID state of emergency order was originally declared on Feb. 29, 2020.

SEATTLE — The remaining COVID-19 emergency orders, including the statewide state of emergency declaration, ended Monday, Oct. 31 after more than two years.

Governor Jay Inslee announced last month the ending date for the remaining emergency orders. Nearly 75% of Inslee's 85 emergency orders were lifted before his announcement in September and an additional 13 healthcare-related orders ended last week. The state of emergency order was originally declared on Feb. 29, 2020.

“Ending this order does not mean we take it less seriously or will lose focus on how this virus has changed the way we live. We will continue our commitments to the public’s well-being, but simply through different tools that are now more appropriate for the era we’ve entered," Inslee said.

The emergency orders ending Monday include:

Although the COVID-19 pandemic remains ongoing, the governor's office said it is no longer an emergency thanks to vaccination efforts, medical treatments and the mitigation efforts of Washingtonians.

“While we are grateful for the thousands of lives we saved together, thousands of lives were also lost, and many more were changed forever,” Inslee said. “The past two and a half years have been some of the hardest anyone can remember. Through the loss and suffering, we did not lose faith and we did not abandon each other. Working together, we saved countless thousands of lives.”

According to the governor's office, the emergency orders contributed to Washington state having one of the lowest COVID-19 death rates in the nation.

The state currently has the sixth-lowest death rate nationwide, and all but two counties currently have low community transmission levels. Ferry and Pacific Counties have a community transmission level of Medium.

“Governor Inslee’s rescission of these remaining emergency orders marks an important transition for the state of Washington, but that does not mean that COVID-19 is not in our state anymore,” said Secretary of Health Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH. “We must move forward from a pandemic response to adapting our behaviors to coexist with the COVID-19 virus."

The DOH's masking order will continue in health care and long-term care facilities, as well as some correctional facilities. However, the DOH said it is actively reviewing and determining which situations they will continue to apply and plan to give another update in mid-Nov.

Some workplace requirements will also remain in place. The Department of Labor & Industries will continue to require all employers to meet certain safety standards including keeping employees who have tested positive or are symptomatic away from the workplace for at least five days, providing PPE to those working with or near individuals with COVID, exposure notifications, anti-discrimination rules against high-risk workers seeking accommodations for COVID and protecting the option to wear masks in the workplace.

The vaccine mandate for many employees, including firefighters, is also ending.

"I think it's great the mandate has ended," said Ricardo Martinez, who worked for Eastside Fire & Rescue for 18 years before he was terminated back in April of last year when he didn't comply with the vaccine mandate. 

Martinez said he and several other firefighters lost their jobs for not complying.

"To lose it all, the livelihood, some had to move out of state because they couldn't afford to pay for their homes anymore, that's not how you treat family," Martinez said.

Inslee's press secretary told KING 5 it is up to each employer to determine whether to rehire any previous employees that did not comply with the vaccine mandate. Martinez said he hopes he and others can get back to serving the community they love.

"This isn't just a job, this isn't just a career, this is truly a calling for us and we want to go back to work and serve the communities that we have served during the entirety of the pandemic," Martinez said.

In a briefing Thursday, DOH officials said 15% of people over the age of 12 have received a Bivalent booster as of Oct. 24, which they called concerning.

The DOH said cases have been trending down since mid-summer, but that people need to prepare for another possible wave this winter.

You can find more information on the state's current COVID-19 cases on the DOH's website.

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