The current COVID-19 surge has upended hopes that we might be moving towards putting the pandemic behind us. We’d hoped that once enough of us had been vaccinated, we could hang our masks up for good. Unfortunately, not enough people have gotten vaccinated quickly enough to contain the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.
Yesterday, the Governor expanded the existing mask mandate to include all people, vaccinated and unvaccinated, in public indoor settings. The expansion goes into effect Monday, August 23. That means you’ll need to bring a mask with you and wear it whenever you’re in grocery store, restaurant, shopping mall, public-facing office or other public indoor setting, whether or not you’re vaccinated, beginning next Monday.
A few exemptions remain in place. The following people are exempt from the statewide mask mandate:
- Children under 5. Children under 2 should never wear a mask, but parents of children between the ages of 2-4 should have their children wear masks when supervised.
- People who are medically prevented from wearing masks.
- People working alone indoors or in a vehicle who don’t work face-to-face with the public.
- Small private indoor gatherings where everyone in attendance is fully vaccinated.
We recommend wearing masks in crowded outdoor settings as well, and so does DOH, but the state mandate only requires mask-wearing indoors at this time.
Although masks are now required for everyone indoors, there are no new social distancing requirements or additional restrictions on business occupancy at this time. The intent of this mandate is to help keep businesses open. Masks and face coverings are one easy thing we can do to limit the spread of the virus. Next to vaccination, it’s the best tool we have.
The Governor also expanded the state’s vaccination requirement to include workers in education and childcare settings. The state now requires these workers (as well as state employees, state contractors, private healthcare and long-term care workers) to be fully vaccinated by October 18 as a condition of further employment. Read this article for more details about the expanded vaccination requirement.
The current surge in disease activity we’re experiencing would be exponentially worse without COVID-19 vaccines. If you aren’t fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you aren’t fully protected. Find a provider near you at VaccineLocator.doh.wa.gov. We keep an updated list of local pop-up vaccine clinics at WhatcomCounty.US/CovidVaccine.