Washingtonians will be required to mask up in all indoor public places as of Monday, Aug. 23.
Gov. Jay Inslee made the announcement earlier this week after the recent rise in Delta variant COVID-19 cases. The mandate requires that everyone over the age of 5 wear a mask in most public indoor settings regardless of vaccination status. The mandate applies to grocery stores, malls, gyms, and community centers.
While not required, masks are also highly recommended for crowded outdoor settings such as sporting events, fairs, and concerts where physical distancing isn’t possible.
According to Washington’s Department of Public Health, the order reflects recommendations of all 35 local health officers in the state and recent changes to CDC guidelines around mask use. Three weeks ago, the CDC started recommending masks in indoor public spaces for all individuals in areas of substantial or high transmission, regardless of vaccination status, due to the spread of the Delta variant.
All counties in Washington are now categorized as having substantial or high transmission.
Public health officials say the Washington health care system is under “immense strain,” due in part to increased transmission, mostly among unvaccinated people. According to public health data, between Feb. 1 and Aug. 3, 94.5 percent of COVID-19 cases who were hospitalized weren’t fully vaccinated.
“While vaccines are the pathway out of this pandemic, wearing a mask is necessary to stem the current increase in COVID-19 cases, driven by the Delta variant,” Washington State Secretary of Health Umair A. Shah said in a statement. “I appreciate the efforts of those who are already regularly wearing face coverings in public and urge others to join us in taking this critical step to control the virus. Each of us has a part to play to stop the spread of this disease in our communities.”
The exceptions to the indoor mask requirement are the following:
- Children under age five years of age. However, children age two to four years old can wear a mask under close adult supervision.
- People with a medical or mental health condition or disability that prevents them from wearing a mask
- Fully vaccinated workers who are working alone or in an area not accessible to the public
- Athletes who play indoor sports and who are actively engaged in competition or practice (masks are still required on sidelines and in team meetings)
- Small indoor private gatherings when everyone is vaccinated
- Children under two years of age should not wear a face covering due to the risk of suffocation
Several Seattle restaurants and bars have started requiring proof of vaccination status to enter, including over a dozen in Ballard. Here’s the latest list for Ballard, from The Seattle Times:
- Addo: Proof of Vaccination with matching valid ID.
- Ballard Station: Proof of Vaccination, with matching valid ID.
- Cloudburst Brewing: Proof of vaccination with matching valid ID
- Delancey: Proof of Vaccination, with matching valid ID or Recent Negative Test (72 hrs) or Positive Antibody Test
- Hazelwood Bar: Proof of vaccination with matching valid ID
- Hotel Albatross: Proof of vaccination with matching valid ID, Mask required while not seated
- Kangaroo & Kiwi: Proof of vaccination with matching valid ID
- Kings Hardware: Proof of Vaccination, with matching valid ID.
- Lucky Envelope Brewing: Proof of vaccination with matching valid ID
- Ocho: Proof of vaccination with matching valid ID
- Pine Tavern: Proof of vaccination with matching valid ID
- Tractor Tavern: Proof of Vaccination, with matching valid ID or Recent Negative Test
- Watson’s Counter: Proof of vaccination with matching ID for dine-in, masks for espresso to-go
For more information about the state guidelines, visit the Washington Department of Health website.