Governor Inslee Announces Expansion of Vaccine Eligibility & Long-Term Care Visitations May Resume

Inslee announced today that there will be upcoming vaccine eligibility expansion, including restaurant workers and Washingtonians 60 and older. He also announced that effective immediately, visitations at long-term care facilities and nursing homes may resume.

The governor announced that the next two tiers of those eligible for the vaccine will become eligible on March 31 due to steady dose and vaccination rate increases.

There are currently around three million Washingtonians currently eligible for the vaccine, with another estimated two million eligible by the end of the month, bringing the total to five million by the end of March — a much higher number than initially predicted.

“Because our doses are increasing and our daily vaccination rates remain around our goal, we are thrilled to announce that we can get this vaccine to more Washingtonians sooner than we initially thought,” Inslee said. “I encourage everyone, especially those who were among the first eligible but haven’t gotten a dose, to take advantage of this life-saving instrument.”

The expansion will open up appointments on March 31st for:

  • Anyone with two or more comorbidities
  • Anyone between the ages of 60 and 64
  • Anyone living in congregate settings (correctional facilities, group homes for those with disabilities, those experiencing homelessness, etc.)
  • Additional workers in congregate settings (restaurants, manufacturing, construction)

Detail on future phases is forthcoming. For information on eligibility, visit the Phase Finder tool on the Department of Health’s website.

Also effective immediately, visitation at long-term care and nursing home facilities may resume, eliminating visitation phases, in accordance with guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Outdoor visitation remains the safest, preferred option, but indoor visitation will be permitted for visitors or residents who are fully vaccinated. Compassionate care visits will still be permitted, regardless of vaccination of either party.

Indoor visitation is not allowed if there is a current active outbreak in a facility or for residents with confirmed cases of COVID-19 or in quarantine due to exposure to the virus.

Long-term care and nursing home facilities must follow Core Infection Prevention Principles, like symptom screening, environmental cleaning, PPE and testing, among other infection prevention tactics.

In order to improve access for eligible Washingtonians to find and make vaccination appointments, as well as provide more resources for vaccination sites statewide, the governor announced a myriad of public-private partnership efforts stemming from the Vaccine Action Command and Coordination System Center.

“Our success in getting more than 2.5 million doses administered to date is thanks to the efforts of many dedicated providers and public health professionals, as well as the National Guard,” Inslee said. “These public-partnerships with small and large Washington-based employers have helped us improve delivery of the vaccine to the people of Washington.”

Home screen of the new DOH vaccine locator web tool (DOH website).

This week, the Department of Health launched a new, user friendly web tool to help Washingtonians find a vaccination appointment. The web tool looks at various scheduling options from multiple providers to find a vaccination appointment easier and is available in multiple languages.

The web application was made possible by a number of partnerships with Washington companies, including Microsoft, Starbucks, Expedia, Costco, Prota Ventures, among others.

The state is also collaborating with Amazon to improve customer support for the state hotline for scheduling vaccination appointments. Starting next week, Amazon call center representatives will join existing hotline workers to schedule vaccine appointments for eligible Washingtonians who may have difficulty accessing or using technology needed to register online.

Finally, Challenge Seattle, an organization of CEOs from 20 of the largest employers in the Seattle area, will be publishing a Playbook for mass vaccination sites. This resource, for public and private organizations running or planning on setting up clinics, will help centralize best practices and lessons learned through the vaccine administration process here in Washington state.

[See full post on Medium]

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