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More people qualify for Covid vaccine; rent moratorium extended

Washington’s eviction moratorium will be extended through June and two million more Washingtonians will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine beginning March 31.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced the moratorium extension and the speeded-up vaccine timeline at a virtual news conference on Thursday.

Under the new vaccine schedule, Washington will open up eligibility to an expanded 1B Tier 3 and Tier 4 at the end of the month. Previously, those tiers were scheduled to become eligible on April 12 and April 26, respectively.

The faster timeline is due to the increasing availability of vaccine doses.

So far, the state has reported receiving nearly three million vaccines and administering 2.5 million. Inslee said by the end of March five million people will be eligible for the shots.

This week, grocery story, agricultural, transit and other high-risk critical workers became eligible to receive the vaccine, along with those 16 and older who are pregnant or have a disability that puts them in danger of COVID-19 complications. 

The next eligible groups will include those who are:

  • 16 and older with two or more co-morbidities
  • Living, working or volunteering in congregate settings like jails, prisons and group homes for people with disabilities
  • Experiencing homelessness and live in or access services in congregate settings

In addition, under the expanded eligibility, people 60 and older will also qualify, as will people working in restaurants, manufacturing and construction. Recently, the restaurant industry has been critical of Inslee for not making its workers eligible even as restaurants prepare to operate at 50 percent capacity.

Details on future phases of eligibility is forthcoming, according to Inslee’s office. President Joe Biden has directed states to make all residents eligible for a vaccine by May 1.

Also Thursday, following the lead of the city of Seattle, Inslee announced that he is once again extending the current statewide eviction moratorium through June 30. It was previously scheduled to expire on March 31.

That extension is designed to head off thousands of potential evictions and comes as the state expects to receive another $400 million in emergency rental assistance from the latest federal stimulus package.

On Thursday, Inslee also announced that indoor visits to nursing home and long-term care facilities can resume if the visitor or the resident have been fully vaccinated. However, outdoor visits remain the preferred option.

As the state works to continue ramping up access to vaccines, the Department of Health has launched a new Vaccine Locator Tool that allows people to find a vaccine site and book an appointment. The service is available in multiple languages. 

Additionally, with help from Amazon, Washington is increasing the number of customer service representatives who answer the state’s vaccine hotline for people who don’t have easy online access.

This story has been updated.

Copyright 2021 Northwest News Network

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."