In recent weeks we have seen a consistent, rapid spread of COVID-19 across the country. Infection rates continue to grow from coast to coast, and that includes right here in Washington State. Average cases in our state have doubled over the past two weeks, and we have had more than 2,000 new cases every day since last weekend.
With that in mind, Governor Inslee announced updated restrictions that went into effect statewide on Monday night and will remain in place until Monday, December 14. Washington State has also committed $50 million in aid to businesses and employees to help mitigate the financial impacts updated COVID-19 restrictions might have.
Indoor gatherings with people outside of the household are prohibited unless individuals quarantine prior to the gathering. Check out the link above for more informaiton on indoor gatherings. Outdoor gatherings are limited to no more than five people.
Restaurants and bars will be closed for indoor service, with to-go services and restricted outdoor dining allowed. In-store retail, grocery stores, and personal services are limited to 25% of occupancy and must close any congregate areas.
Religious services will be limited to 25% indoor capacity or 200 people, whichever is less, and choirs, bands or ensembles are prohibited from performing. Wedding and funeral ceremonies can go on with limited attendance, but receptions of any size are prohibited indoors.
Fitness facilities, gyms, and youth and amateur sporting activities are limited to outdoor only with facial coverings. Bowling alleys, museums, zoos, aquariums, and movie theaters will be closed for indoor services.
While infection rates continue to rise, it is even more important for us to take every precaution that we can to slow the spread of COVID-19. That includes wearing our masks whenever we leave our homes, socially distancing by staying at least six feet apart whenever possible, and limiting our contact with those outside of our homes.
Thank you to Governor Inslee for taking the strong action necessary to protect our communities, slow the spread of COVID-19, and keep our friends and family safe.
“Stay Safe, Stay Healthy”
Rep. Debra Lekanoff
COVID-19 Vaccine Update
While COVID-19 rates rise across the country and restrictions are put back in place, there has been some good news this week as well!
Two different vaccine manufacturers announced that their respective COVID-19 vaccines have been proven effective at preventing COVID-19, with now serious side effects.
Moderna Therapeutics announced on Monday that their COVID-19 vaccine is 94.5% effective against the novel coronavirus, and Dr. Anthony Fauci said that vaccinations could begin in the second half of December for first responders and high-risk individuals.
Meanwhile Pfizer announced on Wednesday that their COVID-19 vaccine is 95% effective and has no serious side effects, and they plan on applying to the Food and Drug Administration today for emergency authorization for their vaccine. If they receive that authorization, they could begin vaccinations in December as well.
It will still be some time before enough doses of these vaccines are produced, distributed, and administered for our population to have a strong herd immunity. We cannot take this news as a sign to lessen our personal efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and we must continue to wear our masks, socially distance, and limit social interactions.
That said, this is certainly cause for hope and celebration. This is an incredible accomplishment, to have created a vaccine in such a short amount of time. We owe a debt of gratitude to those who worked around the clock to make this possible.
Anacortes Schools All Virtual Learning
Yesterday, the Anacortes School District announced that they will be returning all students to remote learning starting next Wednesday, November 25, through January 11, 2021.
While the district schools remain safe, and there have been no outbreaks within the schools, the surge in cases in Anacortes has impacted the district’s ability to safely staff classrooms and buildings.
This was a difficult decision, and I am proud of the education professionals who took the time to analyze the data, discuss with experts, and reach a conclusion that they believe will best serve our children.
It’s hard for our students to have their normal lives upended once again, but this is a decision based on the future. It is yet another example of how we all have a part to play in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and keeping our communities safe.
It is my hope that we can safely return our children to our schools in January, and I will continue working with education officials in the 40th LD and across Washington State to ensure that every precaution is taken that helps to protect our children.
Thanksgiving During COVID-19
As we come up on the Thanksgiving holiday next week, it is more important than ever that we think about our futures, and about what we can do to slow the spread of COVID-19. While we are accustomed to traveling and seeing our family this time every year, traveling to gather with friends or family who do not live with you increases the chances that you will contract or spread COVID-19.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that the “safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with.”
This can still be a time to see and enjoy the company of our loved ones, it just might have to take a different form than in years past. If you want some more information on how you can celebrate Thanksgiving during COVID-19, check out this article from the New York Times.
Rural Development, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Committee
Friends, it has been my pleasure to serve alongside Representative Brian Blake from the 19th LD these past two years in Olympia, and it saddens me greatly that he was unable to win his race for re-election this year.
Representative Blake served as the Chair of the Rural Development, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Committee (RDANR) in the People’s House, and it is with an eye to the future that I am seeking to serve as the RDANR Chair when we begin the new Legislative session in January.
Typically the vice-Chair on a committee would step in when the Chair’s seat is vacated, but the current RDANR vice-Chair, Representative Sharon Shewmake, has expressed her intention to pursue other options in the upcoming session.
As Chair of the RDANR Committee, I would continue to build on the strong work that we have already accomplished, staying committed to diversity, equity, and environmental justice as we move into the future.
It is my hope that I will serve as the Chair of the RDANR Committee when we come back into session this coming January, and I am excited for all the incredible things that we will accomplish moving forward.
Congresswoman Deb Haaland for Secretary of the Interior
As I seek to serve as Chair of the Rural Development, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Committee, recent reports have linked New Mexico Congresswoman Deb Haaland to President-elect Joe Biden’s new administration – specifically to the position of Secretary of the Interior.
More than 100 Native leaders signed a letter supporting Congresswoman Haaland, urging the President-elect to name her to the position of Secretary of the Interior. I am proud to include my support as well, and am thrilled to see Native women rising to positions of leadership across the country.
Native people and Native women in leadership positions is an incredible step forward for our underrepresented and often overlooked communities. When these Native women come into positions that oversee our environment and natural world – as would be the case with Congresswoman Haaland and the RDANR Committee – we see a harmony between the management of resources, and the preservation of the beauty of this place we all call home.
I am thrilled to support Congresswoman Haaland to fill the position of Secretary of the Interior, and Native women across the country who are standing up and making their voices heard. We are watching as our governments are becoming more representative of the people, and I am honored to be a part of that.
Defining Green Infrastructure
Recently I have had the pleasure of sitting down virtually with the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL) and the Washington State Academy of Sciences to discuss building out the criteria for green infrastructure.
As we move forward with bills that will help raise revenue for investment in green infrastructure and economic recovery, we need to have a clear definition of what constitutes “green infrastructure.”
That phrase can mean different things to everyone – everyone thinks about it differently, and to create a system where we are raising revenue and putting it back into communities we need to have a clear criteria defining green infrastructure.
I am so grateful to all of the dedicated people at NCEL and the Washington State Academy of Sciences for working with me on this important issue. Investing in green infrastructure is investing in our future, and we have to make sure that we do it right.
Together we will work to clearly define green infrastructure based on sound science and a strong economic foundation that will create jobs, and help us to improve this place we all call home for seven generations to come.