FILE — Durkan

In this March 13, 2021, file photo, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, left, greets a worker at a volunteer check-in station, on the first day of operations at a mass COVID-19 vaccination site at the Lumen Field Events Center in Seattle, which adjoins the field where the NFL football Seattle Seahawks and the MLS soccer Seattle Sounders play their games.

(The Center Square) – Seattle is the first city in America to see COVID-19 vaccination rates reach 70% as the rest of the state inches towards a full reopening.

Mayor Jenny Durkan announced the news Wednesday, saying that 70% of people ages 12 and older are fully vaccinated. Around 78% of people ages 12 and up have received their first jab. Those figures leave the city at an impasse on how to proceed as the rest of Washington state catches up.

"Seattle is America's most vaccinated major city, and it would not have been possible without our residents' commitment to protecting themselves, their loved ones, and our entire community," Durkan said in a statement. "Now that we have reached community protection, we can lead the nation in safely reopening and recovering in earnest."

Statewide, around 64% of Washingtonians have received at least one shot of a COVID vaccine or below the 70% benchmark Gov. Jay Inslee has set for fully reopening the state. He said last month he expects that benchmark to be met by the end of June. Federal officials say the state has met the goal already based on a difference in opinion on metrics.

Earlier this week, White House Senior Advisor for the COVID Response Team Andy Slavitt congratulated Washington for being the 11th state to see 70% vaccination rates.

The governor's office and Washington Department of Health (DOH) officials took to social media to clarify the disparity, saying the state is basing its metrics on 2020 U.S. Census data and counting those 16 and up or those eligible for both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The Biden administration's projections were based on 2019 U.S. census data and those adults 18 and older, state officials said. That leaves Washington at around 64% partially vaccinated.

News of Seattle's vaccination rates is critical for the state. Seattle is home to more than 753,000 people. The greater metropolitan area is home to 3.98 million, more than half of the state's 7.6 million population.

Based on a New York Times database tracking state reports of COVID cases, Seattle is also home to the lowest COVID death rate in the country out of the 20 largest metro areas in the country.

Washington's current vaccination rates do not include federal employees such as National Guard personnel, leaving its true vaccine numbers unclear. The state has attempted to obtain federal data on the matter and has been unsuccessful.

Washington has announced a range of incentives to get people vaccinated in the past few weeks, including a statewide lottery for the vaccinated. On Thursday, the state poised to pick the winner of its first of four $250,000 prizes. The lottery, which boasts $2 million in cash prizes, will wrap up by the end of June. Everyone who has been vaccinated has already been entered.

The DOH reported on Wednesday that the state's caseload to date stands at 406,802. The death toll from the virus stands at 5,793 people to date.

Staff Reporter

Tim Gruver is a politics and public policy reporter. He is a University of Washington alum and the recipient of the 2017 Pioneer News Award for Reporting. His work has appeared in Politico, the Kitsap Daily News, and the Northwest Asian Weekly.