OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Restaurant workers and people with two or more specified underlying conditions are among the groups who will be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine starting March 31, under a broad expansion of eligibility announced Thursday by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.
Inslee also announced that the current statewide eviction moratorium, set to expire at the end of the month, will be extended through June 30, 2021.
The eligibility expansion decision comes a day after grocery store workers, law enforcement and agricultural workers became eligible for vaccination, along with those who are pregnant and people with a disability that puts them at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness. That group joined others who have been eligible in stages for vaccination since the process started in December, including health care workers, the elderly and teachers, among others.
“There’s reason to be impressed with our continued effort on the vaccine front,” Inslee said. “We know that this is central to our long-term economic recovery in the state of Washington.”
Currently, about 3 million residents of the state — which has a population of more than 7.6 million — are already eligible for the vaccine.
The next phase that takes effect at the end of the month will add 2 million more residents:
—Those 16 and older with two or more comorbidities, including heart conditions, high blood pressure, obesity, liver disease, asthma and diabetes. Smokers with another underlying condition are also eligible under the definitions by the Centers for Disease Control.
—Anyone between the ages of 60 and 64.
—Those 16 and older living in congregate settings like correctional facilities or group homes for disabilities, or those experiencing homeless.
—Workers age 16 and older who work in restaurants, manufacturing and construction.
More than 2.5 million doses of vaccine have been administered to date, and over 12% of the state’s population has been fully vaccinated.
President Joe Biden last week announced that he will direct states and territories to make all adults eligible for vaccination by May 1.
Inslee said it was unlikely that the state’s general population would be eligible much sooner before that federal deadline, though he said that could change if the vaccine rate increases dramatically.
“We want people to get vaccines, not just be eligible for them,” Inslee said.
The U.S. has recorded more than 29.6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 538,000 deaths. There have been more than 331,000 cases in Washington state, and 5,156 deaths.
For most, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks, although long-term effects are unknown. But for some, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
Inslee said that due to increasing vaccination rates, indoor visitation at the state’s nursing home and long-term care facilities will now be allowed for visitors or residents who are fully vaccinated. End-of-life or emotional crisis visits will continue to be allowed, regardless of vaccination status.