Washington state to end indoor mask mandate on March 21
Gov. Jay Inslee has announced that, beginning March 21, face masks will no longer be required in most indoor settings, including schools and child care facilities. The mask mandate will still be applicable in health care settings such as hospitals, outpatient and dental offices, as well as long-term care and correctional facilities.
The announcement came Thursday with the state’s Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah, Deputy Secretary for COVID Response Lacy Fehrenbach, and Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal.
Subsequent announcements included that, beginning March 1, vaccine verification for large events will no longer be required.
Businesses and local governments can still choose to implement vaccination or face mask requirements for workers or customers, and school districts can still choose to have students and teachers wear masks. Federal law still requires face masks in certain settings such as public transportation and school buses.
Updated guidance for K-12 schools with be released by the Department of Health the week of March 6 in anticipation of the mandate being lifted in schools later that month.
Schools will still be required to report COVID outbreaks, and quarantine restrictions will remain in place for students and school staff with symptoms of COVID.
“We are confident that we are succeeding and experiencing a significant decline of omicron cases in our state, and this will allow us in the upcoming weeks to take further steps forward in regaining a more normal life in the State of Washington while still protecting our public health and our family’s health,” Gov. Inslee said Thursday.
The COVID-restriction dominoes have progressively fallen in recent days as King County Executive Dow Constantine announced Wednesday that vaccine requirements for indoor venues in the county will end on March 1.
Businesses and cities throughout the Puget Sound region have begun the process of ending remote work and bringing employees back to the office. This week, Microsoft and the City of Seattle announced a firm return to office date in late February and March, respectively.
Washington enacted a statewide mask mandate in June 2020. That was briefly peeled back last May for those who had been vaccinated against COVID-19, but it was later reinstated in full in August 2021 when COVID case rates spiked with the arrival of the delta variant.
The progressively-ending COVID restrictions are in tandem with declining case rates in Washington. In King County, the seven-day daily average of COVID cases has dipped 24% over the last seven days, while hospitalizations and deaths have decreased by 21% and 16%, respectively. As of Feb. 11, the county was averaging just over 1,100 daily cases, down from the 6,400 cases it was averaging at the height of the omicron surge in January.
Gov. Inslee’s announcement came Thursday at 2 p.m. Watch live here on TVW.