We’ve made it through a difficult year, and now we’re seeing some relief. Today, June 30, Whatcom County and the rest of Washington State will lift most restrictions. We’ll be putting all the stages, phases, safe-starts and road maps behind us!
But this doesn’t mean the pandemic is over.
Before we get carried away, let’s first establish that Washington’s reopening does not mean we’re out of the woods. COVID-19 is still here, it’s still evolving, and there are still lots of people who haven’t been vaccinated. Some COVID prevention measures need to remain in place.
Why Are We Reopening Now?
Restrictions are being lifted because statewide measures of COVID-19 activity - case rates, hospitalizations and deaths - are low and declining, and have been for a couple of months.
Additionally, the vaccination rate has continued to climb, which has contributed to the decline in disease activity. Thanks to the COVID-19 vaccine, we’re able to start getting back to the moments we miss, the activities we enjoy, and the people and places we love.
What Reopening Does and Doesn’t Mean
Here’s a quick breakdown of what will change as of June 30 and what will stay the same:
- Businesses, recreation sites, and venues are open at full capacity (but they must follow workplace safety requirements).The one exception is large indoor events hosting 10,000 or more people. Those will be open at 75% capacity.
- Washington’s mask mandate isn’t going away. Unvaccinated people must wear masks in public indoor settings. Unvaccinated people should also wear masks whenever they are around people they don’t live with, unless they know for a fact that every single person around them is vaccinated.
- Masks are required for everyone in higher risk settings, such as healthcare and long-term care facilities, or settings where many people may not yet be vaccinated (like childcare centers, day camps and schools).
- Businesses can still require both vaccinated and unvaccinated people to wear masks on their premises if they wish. Please respect the rules of the room you’re in and wear a mask when asked to, whether or not you’ve been vaccinated.
- Your employer is still required to record proof of vaccination before you can go without a mask at work. See L&I’s Key COVID-19 Updates for Fully Vaccinated Workers for more details about how to record vaccination status at work.
- We’re still enduring a public health emergency. If the state’s ICU capacity exceeds 90% at any given time because of COVID-19 cases, statewide restrictions could be reimposed. We will be watching our own local data on cases and hospitalizations closely.
- We still need more people to get vaccinated. Vaccines have helped get our case rates down, but we’ll need more people to get vaccinated if we’re to keep trending in the right direction.
What Reopening Means for Our Services
Our offices will reopen to the public by appointment only at our Girard Street location, beginning July 1. Our facilities at State Street will remain closed to the public.
- Making an appointment is easy! Just call 360-778-6000 during normal business hours and one of our staff will schedule an appointment for you. If you need to talk with a public health nurse, call 360-778-6100.
- Many of our services can still be performed online at WhatcomCounty.US/Health.
- Walk-in services will resume September 7, 2021.
- Fully vaccinated people will not be required to wear masks in county buildings, but we will expect anyone who isn’t fully vaccinated to wear a mask.
What Reopening Means for You
If you are fully vaccinated, you are very unlikely to get or spread COVID-19. But it can still happen, so we suggest you bring a mask with you in case you find yourself in a crowded environment. That way, you’ll help protect people who haven’t gotten vaccinated, which may include those who are too young or are unable to be vaccinated because of a medical condition.
If you’re unvaccinated, we encourage you to get vaccinated as soon as possible. It’s easy, effective, safe and free. There are tons of places to get vaccinated now all over the county. Go to VaccineLocator.doh.wa.gov to find a location near you. We also publish a weekly list of pop-up clinics that welcome walk-ins in Whatcom County at WhatcomCounty.US/CovidVaccine.