King County assessing need for mask mandate ‘on an ongoing basis’ as COVID cases continue to rise

Aug 12, 2021, 6:24 AM | Updated: 11:11 am
Mask mandate, directives...
A sign in King County urging people to wear masks. (MyNorthwest Photo)
(MyNorthwest Photo)

A mask directive in Snohomish County takes effect Thursday, but is a similar mandate in the works elsewhere in the Puget Sound region?

Snohomish County enacts mask directive for all residents

Snohomish County’s directive requires masks to be worn by everyone ages 5 and up in all indoor public spaces, regardless of vaccination status, including retail establishments, grocery stores, and government buildings. It does not apply to outdoor spaces, although Snohomish County officials recommend residents mask up in those scenarios as well.

Driven by concerns over the increasing prevalence of the delta variant of COVID-19, county health officials ultimately made the call as part of a situation they warn is “not sustainable and preventable.”

In King County — as well as the rest of Washington state — a voluntary mask recommendation remains in place, “strongly urging” people to wear facial coverings indoors in public. As for whether that guidance might evolve into something more mandatory, health officials have yet to make that call.

“(We are) continuously monitoring the evolving outbreak, and are assessing the need for additional guidance, recommendations or requirements on an ongoing basis,” Public Health — Seattle & King County told MyNorthwest in a written statement. “The strong recommendation for businesses and the public is intended to confront rising cases and more contagious variants of concern.”

Throughout all this, King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin has continued to stress the importance of having “multiple strategies” in place to reduce the risk for both unvaccinated and fully vaccinated residents.

8 counties issue joint statement urging residents to mask up

That includes “minimizing high-risk exposures, settings, and behaviors,” wearing a well-fitting mask in public settings, and most importantly, getting vaccinated.

“Vaccines remain the best way to reduce risk, but are not 100% protection,” Dr. Duchin said on Twitter. “Vaccinated people, especially if in a high-risk group for severe CoV-19, or who are a close contact of a high-risk person, should also take steps to further reduce their risk based on local CoV-19 rates, their personal situation/risk assessment/tolerance.”

Washington state’s mask recommendation remains consistent with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Facial coverings are also mandatory for all K-12 students and staff on school premises this fall.

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King County assessing need for mask mandate ‘on an ongoing basis’ as COVID cases continue to rise