Washington to lift remaining COVID-19 emergency orders

Students, staff express concern for lack of masks

JOSIAH PIKE, Evergreen news co-editor

Gov. Jay Inslee announced the COVID-19 state of emergency will be lifted effective Oct. 31. after over two years. 

The state of emergency, along with 10 additional emergency proclamations, will be lifted following the rescission of 13 health care orders on Oct. 27, according to Inslee’s news release.

Washington is entering a post-pandemic era, but it is important to note the impact of COVID-19 is not over, said Ofer Amram, department of nutrition and exercise physiology assistant professor who has researched spatial epidemiology. 

The Whitman County Public Health Department has reported 106 cases per 100,000 people in the past week, according to its website. Although there is an average of six cases per day, this rate has fallen 20% since two weeks ago, according to the New York Times.

“We need a maybe yearly vaccine, and I think that’s where it’s heading,” Amram said. “I hope though that, as we move forward, treatment and information will still be widely, publicly available. This does not mean that COVID is over.”

Amram said it is hard to tell exactly what repercussions this decision will have on Washington, but he would have liked the order to be lifted in spring rather than when winter is approaching.

“The timing is not the best with flu season coming and winter coming,” he said. “I think with flu season and all it can be a little bit concerning and a potential COVID increase could happen.”

Amram said with these final orders ending, it is more important than ever for the vulnerable and immunocompromised population to wear a mask and try to stay safe. He also encouraged students and the public to try to remain mindful of COVID-19.

“I still take my mask with me. The order is ending, but COVID is still going on,” Amram said.

Jasper Willson, junior multimedia journalism major, is continuing to wear her mask and has been wearing it since the mandates were repealed in March. She said the emergency order lifting is disappointing, considering many people have immunocompromised family members or are immunocompromised themselves and still need protection.

“To see those final pieces go away is a little bit disappointing because there’s a lot of people who can’t go back to, ‘oh you may get COVID, and that’s part of life,’” Willson said.

This semester, she and her roommates received a new booster shot to give herself more protection as fewer people are wearing masks. Willson said if more people wore masks there would be less reason to worry about COVID-19, as well as the encouragement of and requirement of boosters.

“While I think it’s sad the state is getting rid of this, at the same time, I think it is social. It’s become so polarized that I’m not sure the state could do things that would be effective,” she said.

Andy Younger, freshman computer science major, said he also does not think there will be drastic changes in Washington once the emergency order is lifted. 

“I don’t think anyone else here is gonna change anything either,” Younger said. “I don’t see many people wearing masks around here nowadays.”

Younger said this announcement did not affect his response to the pandemic and he would most likely continue how he had responded to COVID-19 already since he has not gotten it yet.

Undeclared freshman Sheppard Smith said he became more relaxed with COVID-19 restrictions as mandates were repealed although he followed them very closely during the early stages of the pandemic. 

“I guess I’ll just try to have faith that [the government is] doing what’s right,” Smith said. “If COVID cases go back up, then I would understand if restrictions went back up.”