State mandate: Keep those masks on

Aug 12th, 2021 | By | Category: News

(Updated on Aug. 18). 

A statewide mandate announced by Governor Jay Inslee requires everyone in Washington—vaccinated or not–to wear face masks in all indoor settings beginning Aug. 23 in response to rising cases of COVID-19.

The mask requirement, which applies to most public places, including restaurants, grocery stores, shopping malls and public-facing offices, is in response to Washington breaking its previous record for COVID hospitalizations that was set last December. As of late-August, every county in the state was within the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) measurement for substantial or high transmission of the virus.

“I know this will frustrate some vaccinated folks who thought they wouldn’t have to do this any more,” Inslee said, but he noted there “aren’t enough people vaccinated. The result is the explosive growth of a much more infectious strain (of COVID-19), the Delta variant, and its impacts on people of all ages.”

The statewide mandate for masks also came on the heels of the health officers of all 35 local health jurisdictions in Washington–including Pierce County, King County and Kitsap County–making a joint appeal to the public for everyone to wear face masks in indoor public settings where the COVID-19 vaccination status of others is unknown.

Doing so “will help reduce the risk of COVID-19 to the public, including customers and workers, help stem the increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in many parts of the state, and decrease the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant,” the officials said in a joint statement Aug. 12.

They also said vaccinations are “the best defense” against COVID-19 and are “safe, effective, and readily available for everyone age 12 and over.

The health officers making the plea include Dr. Anthony L-T Chen of Pierce County, Dr. Jeffrey Duchin of King County, and Dr. Gib Morrow of Kitsap County. Chen and Duchin were originally joined by six other health officers in western Washington on July 26, and now 27 more statewide have signed on with the appeal. They want anyone older than 2 years old to mask up anywhere the public can enter freely. Masks add another layer of protection even if you’re vaccinated, and if you’re not, they help prevent spreading of COVID-19 to others, the health officers noted.

Chen  followed the Aug. 12 directive with another one Aug. 18 for Pierce County, stating masks should also be worn outdoors where physical distancing isn’t possible and regardless of vaccination status. He said Pierce County was in the midst of its longest and strongest increase of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

They want anyone older than 2 years old to mask up anywhere the public can enter freely. Masks add another layer of protection even if you’re vaccinated, and if you’re not, they help prevent spreading of COVID-19 to others, the health officers noted.

In response to a common question about why vaccinated people need to wear masks, the health officers said in their joint statement, “No vaccine is 100 percent effective at preventing illness. If you’re fully vaccinated, you’re less likely to become ill with COVID-19, and much less likely to become hospitalized or die if you do. Still, vaccinated people can get infected. So even though you’re much less likely to get COVID-19 or have a severe illness if you’re fully vaccinated, you still can get sick and spread it to others. Well-fitting, multi-layer cloth face masks reduce spread of infectious droplets by up to 80 percent. They also reduce the risk of inhaling those droplets. As case rates rise from the highly contagious Delta variant, masks provide extra protection. Vaccination, masks, ventilation and hand hygiene help prevent illness and protect businesses.”

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