All Washington health officers recommend masks in indoor, public spaces

Aug 12, 2021, 3:53 PM | Updated: 5:14 pm
masks, seattle...
People walk through Pike Place Market in Seattle on June 10, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

Health officers from all 35 local health jurisdictions in Washington released a joint statement Thursday recommending that all residents wear facial coverings or masks when in indoor, public settings where the vaccination status of those around you is unknown.

This matches federal recommendations to wear masks in areas with substantial to high transmission rates of COVID-19, which Washington is seeing now. It also matches a statewide recommendation.

“While vaccinations are our best defense against COVID-19, it takes up to six weeks to get fully vaccinated, depending on which vaccine you get,” said Dr. Greg Stern, Whatcom County Health Officer. “Masking provides an immediate and effective layer of protection.”

Stern adds that to better reduce our risk as the highly transmissible delta variant spreads, we should wear a mask and be vaccinated, “not one or the other.”

An additional benefit to masking, as the joint statement explains, is for businesses and organizations. If everyone wears a mask, businesses can ensure that unvaccinated persons are using masks, as required by the Washington State Secretary of Health, without having to verify vaccination records.

Snohomish County enacts mask directive for all residents

This recommendation applies to anyone over the age of 2 if they are in an indoor space that is open to the public, including grocery stores, retail, government buildings, or other businesses or places where the public can enter freely. If you’re in an crowded outdoor setting where the vaccination status of those around you is unknown, it’s also recommended that you mask up.

This joint recommendation from the 35 health officers is not a new or separate mandate.

Individual counties in Washington are enacting mask mandates, including Snohomish and Thurston counties. King County is still assessing the need for a mask mandate. Statewide, masks will be required for all K-12 students and school employees this fall.

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All Washington health officers recommend masks in indoor, public spaces