King County health officer: Fully vaccinated should consider masking up in some settings

May 17, 2021, 5:43 AM | Updated: 11:08 am
rollback, maskless, vaccinated masking, mask...
Social distancing and mask requirements remain in place across Washington. (MyNorthwest photo)
(MyNorthwest photo)

With the CDC fielding questions over its newly-updated mask guidance, King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin provided some clarification last week, urging people — regardless of vaccination status — to consider masking up in certain scenarios.

Washington to follow CDC’s lead on relaxing mask rules

The CDC’s guidance generally recommends that fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to mask up in most indoor and outdoor settings. That’s led to companies like Walmart, Trader Joe’s, and Costco relaxing their masking requirements for the fully vaccinated.

As Dr. Duchin points out, though, there isn’t a dependable method for a business — or a customer — to determine a person’s vaccination status.

“CDC recommends vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks for most activities indoors or out, while unvaccinated people should continue to do so, especially indoors,” he tweeted. “However, it’s not easy to know who is/is not vaccinated in public spaces!”

In King County, 53% of residents have now been fully vaccinated, while COVID prevalence still remains relatively high. Given that, Dr. Duchin says that it “would be best to have a higher degree of vaccination and protection for all groups” before relaxing local mask rules.

He warns that in areas where COVID-19 transmission is still at concerning levels, it’s still risky to not mask up if you’re unvaccinated, and even those who are vaccinated may want to consider continuing to wear a facial covering as well.

Why Washington might not need herd immunity to ‘start taking masks off’

“Vaccinated people with weakened immune systems and all who want to reduce their risk to the greatest extent possible, even for mild infection, should consider continuing to wear masks indoors when around unvaccinated people, especially where local CoV-19 activity is at high levels,” he recommended.

As for figuring out when you should and shouldn’t be wearing a mask, Duchin says it should largely come down to the region you’re in, and your own willingness to absorb risk based on that.

“When considering whether to wear a mask indoors in public spaces, understanding your risk based on local CoV-19 activity can help you make a decision based on your personal risk tolerance,” he advised.

That said, he also noted that masks should continue to be worn at all times in correctional facilities, homeless shelters, schools, public transportation, long-term care facilities, and hospital settings.

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King County health officer: Fully vaccinated should consider masking up in some settings