Rick Bannan / [email protected]
The last of dozens of executive orders issued by Gov. Jay Inslee due to the COVID-19 pandemic will end by November, the governor announced last week.
During a Sept. 8 press conference, Inslee announced Washington’s state of emergency regarding the pandemic will end on Oct. 31. As of the announcement, three quarters of Inslee’s executive orders had already ended, with the last 10 set to be lifted at the end of next month, according to a governor’s office release.
Washington was the first state in the US to report a COVID-19 case in January of 2020. In February, Inslee announced the state of emergency, which was among the 85 executive orders issued during the course of the pandemic.
“We’ve come a long way the past two years in developing the tools that allow us to adapt and live with COVID-19,” Inslee stated in the release. “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.”
Washington State Secretary of Health Umair Shah said the removal of the orders “marks an important transition for the state” but doesn’t mean COVID-19 is no longer a worry.
After October, the requirement for facial coverings in health care and correctional facilities under certain circumstances will remain. Most state agencies will continue to require COVID-19 vaccinations for its employees, though the requirement will be lifted for workers in education and health care. Employers may keep the requirement if they choose.
Following Inslee’s announcement
of the end of the orders, local lawmakers responded that although welcome, the removal of the state of emergency could have come sooner.
State Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, said the current emergency powers law was 50 years old and didn’t take into account the ability of legislators to make decisions remotely. In a statement, Wilson said Senate Republicans proposed “sensitive reforms” as the state of emergency was in effect that would have put a check on executive orders that went beyond 30 days.
“The governor showed no interest in our ideas, nor did his allies in the current legislative majority, and I heard nothing from him today to suggest a change of heart,” Wilson said.
Wilson said Washington families deserve better than what they got from Inslee’s executive actions, which shut out them and their representatives in the process of responding to the pandemic.
“I’m glad the state of emergency will be over, but it will be critical for the Legislature to reflect on the errors that were made and take steps to make sure our laws are ready for the next emergency,” Wilson said.
State Senate Republican Leader John Braun, of Centralia, said the orders were justified at the pandemic’s onset given the limited information about the novel coronavirus.
“Unfortunately, there came a point when Governor Inslee began drifting away from the data and toward other metrics that seemed more political than scientific,” Braun said.
After questioning from Republicans throughout the pandemic, Braun felt Inslee’s excuses dried up, which led to the recent announcement of the orders’ end.
“(F)rom that standpoint I welcome today’s announcement,” Braun said.