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Washington state lifting its mask mandate two years after first COVID-19 death

In February of 2020, the first COVID-related death in the U.S. was reported in Washington state.

KIRKLAND, Wash. — On Feb. 29, 2020, everything changed when the first COVID-19 death in the United States was reported in Washington state. 

Before that, Washington was under close observation following the first confirmed COVID case in the U.S. after a Snohomish County man was admitted to an Everett hospital.

Life Care Center of Kirkland was the epicenter of COVID cases at the beginning of the pandemic. The nursing home experienced two outbreaks in 2020, which resulted in a total of 46 deaths among residents, staff, and visitors. 

Former Vice President Mike Pence visited Washington March 5 following the outbreak in Kirkland as the death toll continued to rise. At the time, Pence acknowledged that Washington was "on the front lines" of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak. 

"All of America's hearts are with you," Pence said. He thanked Washington officials for their attention and action to the outbreak.

Two days later, the Seattle Sounders played. 

On March 11, Gov. Jay Inslee banned gatherings of 250 people and more in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties due to COVID outbreaks. At the time, Inslee said the ban would be through at least March. 

By nightfall, Seattle Public Schools, the largest district in Washington, closed. 

On March 21, the U.S.-Canada border closed to all non-essential travel.

The first stay-at-home orders were announced on March 23, 2020.  

By April, cases appeared to be trending well and we were "flattening the curve." 

But cases once again began to rise. 

Inslee announced a mandatory mask mandate in public in June. Inslee said the masks were necessary to mandate because coronavirus had continued to spread as the state reopened.

More restrictions were set in place in July on businesses, weddings, and other services. The mask mandate was also expanded, with people being asked to wear face masks in common spaces such as elevators, hallways and shared spaces in apartment buildings, university housing and hotels, as well as congregate settings like nursing homes.

The governor also announced indoor dining at restaurants would be limited to members of the same household only. People in a mixed group were told to eat outside.

It took until November 2020 for the first vaccine breakthrough, after shots first went into arms Dec. 15.

Mass vaccination sites didn't become available until March 1, 2021.

By then, patience was wearing thin for some. The town of Point Roberts, for example, would be cut off due to the border closure for nearly 600 days in total.

By April 2021, however, the Mariners were celebrating their "re-opening day." Vaccines were available for everyone 16 and older. And schools were beginning to reopen.

In June 2021, businesses were returning to normal operation.

But as cases and deaths continued, mask and vaccine mandates were put in place, forcing some to decide whether to get a shot or face risking termination from employment. 

The omicron variant surged. Events once again were being canceled as cases and deaths increased. 

Now, in a new year, cases are dropping. Restrictions are ending, including Washington state's mask mandate on March 12

Since that day in February two years ago, the state has recorded more than 1.4 million cases, more than 55,000 COVID-related hospitalizations, and more than 11,000 deaths. 

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