Here's what you need to know about the statewide mask mandate


OLYMPIA — Masks are back for everyone in Washington.

After about three months of freedom from masks for vaccinated people, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Wednesday vaccinated people must join those unvaccinated in wearing masks when indoors.

The mandate follows a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across the state. Washington reached an all-time high for hospitalizations due to COVID-19 this week.

As with the previous statewide mandate, this one says every person in the state must wear a face covering that "covers their nose and mouth when they are in a place where any person from outside their household is present," according to the proclamation.

But there's still some exceptions.

Here's what we know:

When does it start?

Beginning Monday,  everyone, regardless of vaccination status, must wear a face covering in most indoor settings.

Who does it apply to?

The mandate applies to everyone, vaccinated and not vaccinated, when they are around people outside of their household.

It does not apply to children younger than 5, although those between the ages of 2 and 5 are "strongly encouraged" to wear a face covering in public settings.

Those with a medical condition, mental health condition, developmental or cognitive condition, or disability are also exempt. That includes people whose face covering may obstruct breathing or who are unable to remove a face covering without assistance.

Where do you have to wear a mask?

Everyone must wear a mask when around those who are outside of their household. That includes at restaurants, bars, businesses, grocery stores, theaters, gyms, dance studios, yoga studios, malls and community centers.

The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction also released its own guidance, requiring masks for teachers, staff, students and visitors in a K-12 school.

Where do you not have to wear a mask?

Although masks are required for everyone in most settings, this mandate has more exceptions than the mask mandate from a year ago.

Masks do not need to be worn while eating or drinking, showering or sleeping.

Fully vaccinated people in office spaces that are not accessible to the public do not need to wear a mask, as long as everyone else in the space is fully vaccinated. Fully vaccinated means two weeks after getting either the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or the only shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Similarly, when someone is working alone indoors, they do not need to wear a face mask. That can include a person who has an office with a closed door, a delivery driver with no face-to-face interactions or a lone janitor.

Fully vaccinated people at small indoor gatherings at a private residence do not need to wear a mask if everyone in the space is fully vaccinated.

You don't need to wear a mask if you're an athlete or coach actively playing or coaching in a game. But if you're a spectator, or an athlete on the sidelines, you do have to wear one. And masks are still required at all times in gyms, yoga studios or other fitness facilities.

The exception list also includes: when swimming or engaged in other water sports or recreation, actively engaged in a performing arts performance, leading religious services or confirming an identity, such as at an airport.

Those who are deaf or hard of hearing, or are with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing, do not need to wear a mask, if removing one is essential to communication.

What about outside?

As of now, wearing a mask outdoors is not required. The Department of Health, however, strongly recommends everyone wear face coverings in outdoor crowded settings, such as sporting events, fairs, parades, or concerts.

Secretary of Health Dr. Umair A. Shah told reporters Wednesday  outdoor crowded settings can make it difficult to keep  distant from those who are not fully vaccinated.

Wearing a mask at an outdoor gathering is a "strong recommendation," he said.


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