Washington state plans re-opening and lifts mask mandates – what does it mean for veterinarians?
Gov. Inslee announced the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions Thursday with plans to fully re-open businesses by June 30, 2021. He also said that beginning immediately, the state would follow the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) recommendations and have fewer requirements for wearing masks for fully vaccinated people.
The Governor announced he plans to move the entire state to Phase 3, or 50% capacity, beginning Tuesday, May 18, and Phase 4, or full capacity, by June 30. In Washington, there’s been a decline in the number of COVID cases and hospitalizations over the last couple of weeks and hospitalizations death rates are at their lowest since the start of the pandemic. If vaccinations continue at their current pace of an average of 46,000 per day, and 70% or more residents have received their first shot before then, the state could open up earlier. More than 57% of eligible Washingtonians have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 43.67% are fully vaccinated, although in some counties, vaccinations rates are lower. Local jurisdictions have the authority to be more restrictive if infection rates increase.
Following the CDC’s announcement Thursday that fully vaccinated people can go without masks outdoors and in most indoor settings, Inslee announced that Washington would follow the same guidance. According to the CDC, fully vaccinated people are those who are two weeks post their second Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or two weeks post the single Johnson and Johnson vaccine.
There’s no way to verify who’s been vaccinated. Businesses will still have the right to require customers to continue wearing masks.
What does this mean for veterinary hospitals?
Inslee made it clear that the elimination of mask wearing does not apply to doctor’s offices, hospitals, schools, and other congregate areas, although the Dept. of Health has yet to update their guidance. The CDC says that health care providers should continue to follow all current infection prevention and control recommendations, including those addressing work restrictions, quarantine, testing, and use of personal protective equipment to protect themselves and others from SARS-CoV-2 infection.
What about curbside? The CDC recommendations have always been to incorporate curbside services during the pandemic. As of now, they have not updated their recommendations.
Since the onset of the pandemic, the WSVMA has advised that veterinary hospitals follow Washington’s and the CDC’s protocols for health care providers, and in the absence of clearer information, we recommend that continue for now. As more guidance becomes available, we will keep the membership updated.
Posted May 14, 2021