After 15 months, Washington has reopened. Fifteen months. We’ve made a lot of changes, but what exactly does “reopening” mean? When the governor or state officials talk about reopening, they’re referring to businesses. The main difference as of June 30, is that businesses and events are open at 100% capacity. The exception is for indoor venues with a capacity of 10,000 or more; they are still limited to 75% capacity. Most businesses — including restaurants, bars, movie theaters, grocery stores and offices — get to operate like they did before the pandemic, as long as they’re following the workplace safety requirements set by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I).

One misconception people often have is that reopening means masks are no longer needed. Mask guidance has become less strict as vaccination rates increase but keep your mask handy. Everybody, regardless of vaccination status, will need to wear a mask in certain settings including public transportation, childcare, schools, health care settings, correctional facilities, and homeless shelters. If you or your children over the age of 2 are not fully vaccinated, you still need to wear masks in public indoor settings. But if you’re fully vaccinated, you do not need to wear a mask in most settings. Visit Washington Department of Health’s website to stay updated on face covering guidance.

In addition, businesses have the right to require masks or to ask for immunization status in order to enter their location. Please be kind, and follow the rules of the house you’re in.

Let’s take a moment and celebrate the successes we have made to get us where we are, but let’s also remember the pandemic is not over. There is still risk from COVID-19, but we now have so many tools to minimize that risk. The first, and most effective tool is vaccination. The more people are vaccinated, the less chance the virus has to spread and mutate. We also need to keep using our other tools: mask wearing where required, social distancing if unvaccinated, hand washing, staying home when sick, and getting tested if you have COVID-19 symptoms.

We’ve come a long way, Spokane County. Let’s keep moving forward together.

For more vaccination information, click here.