King County to consider implementing stricter mask rules at local level

May 18, 2021, 6:59 AM | Updated: 11:30 am
mask rules, grocery workers...
(MyNorthwest photo)
(MyNorthwest photo)

Despite the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stating that fully vaccinated people no longer have to wear facial coverings in most indoor and outdoor public settings, Public Health — Seattle & King County (PHSKC) is considering the possibility of implementing stricter mask rules in the weeks ahead.

Washington to follow CDC’s lead on relaxing mask rules

Currently, PHSKC’s updated mask guidance aligns with the CDC’s recent recommendation, stating that “people who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear masks in outdoor or indoor settings, except in health care settings like hospitals, long-term care, or doctor’s offices; correctional facilities, homeless shelters, schools, or on public transportation.” It goes on to note that businesses can still require masks, and are permitted to ask for proof of vaccination.

On Monday, though, PHSKC indicated that it may be looking to amend those rules at the local level.

“Public Health – Seattle & King County is considering whether ending the indoor mask mandate is the best option in King County at this time and if additional guidance or clarification is needed,” it tweeted. “We will provide an update later this week.”

Rather than broadly lifting mask rules for fully vaccinated residents, it instead hopes to tie that mandate to local COVID-19 case and vaccination rates.

King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin clarified that sentiment last week, advising that “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.”

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

“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 added.

At the state level, Gov. Jay Inslee previously said that he intends to have Washington follow the CDC’s lead, and that it would update its own rules to reflect that change.

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King County to consider implementing stricter mask rules at local level