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Re-imposing state’s mask mandate ‘not under consideration,’ says Gov. Inslee

Mask requirements remain up to individual businesses in Washington state. (MyNorthwest photo)

While Los Angeles County will be re-imposing its indoor mask mandate starting this weekend, regardless of vaccination status, Governor Jay Inslee said Friday that Washington state does not intend to take a similar approach.

“That is not under active consideration at the moment,” Inslee said. “But I will tell you, the folks that live in these vaccine deserts, they have the right to protect themselves, and the best way is to get their friends and neighbors vaccinated.”

With the highly contagious Delta variant spreading rapidly, COVID-19 cases in the United States are up around 70% over the last week, hospital admissions have climbed about 36%, and deaths rose by 26%, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday.

“We are watching this on a daily basis to look at the impact, and at the moment, the acceleration has not been significant enough in our book to warrant that,” Inslee said. “If we don’t get these vaccinations up, we could face an explosion of the Delta variant.”

COVID-19 deaths and newly confirmed infections across the United States are still dramatically lower than they were over the winter. But for the first time since then, cases are rising in all 50 states. In the past two days, the Washington State Department of Health reported over 700 new cases each day. In the past two weeks, Washington is averaging about 30 new hospitalizations daily as well.

In the meantime, the nation’s vaccination drive has slowed to a crawl, with only about 48% of the population fully protected. Washington state announced on Tuesday that it had reached its target of 70% of the eligible population (16+) that had received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine.

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“We are using the tool of vaccinations,” Inslee said. “That’s the ultimate answer to this pandemic. We don’t want to be wearing masks for the next 32 years — vaccines stop this thing dead.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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