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Washington to follow CDC guidance, now recommends all people wear masks indoors

Gov. Jay Inslee. (TVW)

Gov. Jay Inslee announced Wednesday that Washington state will be following recent guidance from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and is now recommending that all people wear masks in indoor public settings regardless of vaccination status. Masks will also be required for all K-12 students and school employees.

King County recommends everyone wear a mask ‘once again’

The statewide recommendation is being classified as a “consideration, not a requirement,” and will not include any enforcement or mandates. That said, the guidance regarding students and school employees is mandatory.

Schools will continue to offer in-person learning with three feet of physical distance in classrooms.

Inslee did not specify how long he expects the state’s new guidance to last, noting that it largely depends on driving transmission rates down.

“If we can turn these COVID numbers back, we can revisit these in the coming weeks and months,” he said.

The governor also expressed frustration regarding parts of Washington where vaccination rates remain low.

“This vaccine works,” Inslee said. “Frankly, it is maddening that we have a life-saving medicine that can save people’s lives that’s free, and that we have to be in this position.”

This comes after an announcement from the CDC on Tuesday, recommending that vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the United States where COVID-19 cases are surging. The CDC’s update advises that “everyone in areas of substantial or high transmission wear a mask, even if vaccinated,” as well as indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors at schools nationwide.

The CDC also has a county-by-county analysis of case rates in each state, broken down into four categories: high, substantial, moderate, and low. Masks are recommended for all counties where transmission levels are high or substantial. In Washington, that constitutes 25 of the state’s 39 counties.

8 Washington counties issue recommendation to mask up indoors

Across the country, health officials have pointed to the growing prevalence of the Delta variant as a driving factor behind these recent trends, as well as pockets of populations where vaccinations have been lagging. In Washington, the state Department of Health estimates that 96% of recent hospitalizations have been among the unvaccinated.

Eight Western Washington counties got a head start on mask guidance earlier this week, issuing a joint recommendation urging all residents to wear facial coverings in indoor public settings. That included Snohomish, King, Kitsap, Clallam, Jefferson, San Juan, and Grays Harbor counties.

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