Washington health leaders urge continued mask wearing after mandate lifts

Mar 2, 2022, 9:24 AM
Health care workers wait to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the UW Medical Center on Dec. 15, 2020, in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

Washington’s statewide indoor mask mandate will end on March 12, but some local medical professionals are asking people to consider keeping their masks on.

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“We both understand the desire to resume a more normal way of living with COVID and have some concerns about what this could mean if COVID case trends begin increasing again,” said Taya Briley, the executive vice president of the Washington State Hospital Association. “Hospital leaders are recommending people continue to wear good masks in indoor spaces.”

“This is both for your protection and for the protection of our most vulnerable neighbors,” she added.

Briley says they’re asking that the practice of wearing masks be continued until we have “a few months of really low cases and things are more certain.”

Dr. Santiago Neme with UW Medicine says continuing to mask up indoors would help protect immuno-compromised people.

“I think it’s a very small thing to ask people to continue to do — not in a mandatory way, but in understanding that this is beyond the individual level,” Neme said.

Masks will still be required in hospitals and health care facilities, as well as at long-term care facilities, jails, and on public transportation after the mandate lifts. Private businesses and individual counties can also choose to enact their own masking requirements.

The statewide outdoor mask mandate was lifted Feb. 18.

King County officially ends COVID vaccine requirements for businesses


After the omicron peak, hospitalizations across the state are dropping quickly. Washington’s hospitals saw a double-digit percentage decrease in COVID hospitalizations over the past four weeks. Though there are some counties, including Pierce, King, and Spokane, that are still struggling with patient loads.

The Washington State Hospital Association’s Taya Briley says medical workers are suffering.

“Our workforce is exhausted, and they are traumatized from their experience caring for patients and their families during this pandemic,” Briley said.

Many hospitals are providing counseling and other support services for workers.

KIRO Newsradio’s Nicole Jennings contributed to this report.

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Washington health leaders urge continued mask wearing after mandate lifts