Podcast | The realities of reopening in Washington state

The state secretary of health discusses the decision to remove pandemic restrictions, the risks that come with it, and the strange new reality Washingtonians are about to enter.

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Three photos: People eating outside, a woman administering a vaccine and Lumen Park

Diners in downtown Ballard share a meal on Oct. 20, 2020. (Dorothy Edwards/Crosscut) Nasra Ibrahim of the Somali Health Board administers a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a coronavirus vaccine clinic hosted by the Somali Health Board at Oromo Cultural Center in Seattle, Washington, Saturday, May 29, 2021. (Lindsey Wasson for Crosscut) The Seattle Sounders play on Oct. 6, 2019. (Dorothy Edwards/Crosscut)

As vaccination numbers have ticked up and COVID-19 infections have gone down, states across the country have dropped mask mandates and lifted restrictions on businesses and other public spaces. Washington state, the first American state to record a pandemic death and one of the slowest to return to normal, is set to reopen on Wednesday, June 30.

Much is changing, but one thing remains a constant for many: worry. After a year spent navigating many unknowns while attempting to avoid an unusual, deadly and highly contagious virus, it is, perhaps, difficult to stop worrying. But there are also reasons to worry, including a host of variants that have the potential to change the course of the virus, a politically charged divide between the vaccinated and unvaccinated, and shifting social norms that may feel risky or just plain weird. 

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The undercurrent to all of this is a continuing concern over the unknown and a desire for more information. 

For today’s episode of the Crosscut Talks podcast, Northwest Newsmakers host Monica Guzman speaks about all of this with Dr. Umair Shah, Washington state’s secretary of health. In this conversation, recorded on June 22, 2021, the doctor speaks about the reopening plan, the risks that come with it and how he believes the pandemic has changed us.


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