OLYMPIA – The Secretary of Health’s mask order will remain in place even after June 30, which means that people who are not fully vaccinated need to continue to wear a face mask in public indoor settings even when things start to go back to normal as the state reaches a reopening milestone.
All people, regardless of vaccination status, are still required to wear masks in certain places, such as schools and health care settings. In most other settings, people who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear a mask.
Businesses and local authorities can set their own more protective mask requirements, even though some state restrictions are being lifted. That’s why the DOH message around masking is “Respect the rules of the room you’re in,” since those rules may change depending on where you are. Guidance for employers is available on the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries website.
“Even though the economic reopening represents a return to a more normal life for people who are vaccinated, masks will still be part of daily life for many,” says Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, Secretary of Health. “Masks will still need to be in your car, your pocket, your backpack – they’ll still be a part of your life as we start to transition into this new phase of recovery.”
The Secretary of Health’s mask order has been amended to say that no one is required to wear a mask outdoors. People who are unvaccinated are encouraged to wear a mask in crowded outdoor settings, such as at sporting events, fairs, parades, concerts, and similar settings where it’s harder to maintain physical distance. No one is required to wear a mask during outdoor sports practice or competition, while swimming or when engaged in water sports and recreation.
People who are not fully vaccinated must wear a mask during indoor sports practices and competitions, with some limited exceptions that will be designated by DOH.
The settings in which all people, including people who are fully vaccinated, are required to wear masks include:
child care facilities, camps, K-12 schools, and other youth settings where children are present or expected to be present;
health care settings, in accordance with CDC health care infection prevention and control recommendations;
correctional facilities in areas where incarcerated individuals are present or expected to be present;
homeless shelters in areas where individuals being served are present or expected to be present;
public transportation and transportation hubs, including airports, bus or ferry terminals, train and subway stations
Masking helps protect those who are unvaccinated, including children who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated and others with auto-immune or other conditions that prevent them from being vaccinated. Parents should be reminded that there is real risk to children until vaccinations are available. Kids who aren’t vaccinated still need to wear masks, though children younger than two years old should never wear one due to a risk of suffocation.
“If you are a person who works with children, as a teacher or a caregiver or a pediatrician, another protection you can create for them is to get vaccinated yourself,” says Acting State Health Officer Scott Lindquist, MD, MPH. “The evidence is clear: vaccination protects you and the people around you, including kids who can’t get vaccinated yet. So, get vaccinated to protect kids.”
“Immunity levels in your social circles determine how likely you are to be exposed to the virus, and we expect to continue seeing outbreaks in communities with lower vaccination rates,” said Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, Secretary of Health. “You can help keep your community safe by getting your vaccine and talking to the people you know about getting theirs.”