State indoor mask mandate to be lifted early starting March 12

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Starting March 12, masks will not be required in most places in Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Monday.

Initially, indoor mask restrictions were not to be lifted until March 21, but as case rates and hospitalizations decline across the West, California, Oregon and Washington are moving together to update their masking guidance, Inslee said in a news release.

That means Washingtonians will no longer have to wear masks in schools, child care facilities, restaurants, bars, churches, gyms, grocery stores and retail businesses.

The Washington State Department of Health will be issuing new guidance for K-12 schools next week so schools can prepare to implement updated safety protocols.

Schools will still be required to report COVID-19 cases and outbreaks and cooperate with local health authorities.

The DOH will also shift existing requirements for distancing, ventilation and sanitation so they become recommendations.

Where masks will still be required

Masks are still required in health care settings such as hospitals and dental offices, long-term care settings and correctional facilities.

Federal law still requires masks to be worn on public transportation.

Businesses and local governments can still choose to require face masks for workers or customers.

School districts can also still choose to require students and teachers to wear masks.

Washington’s current indoor mask mandate restarted on Aug. 23, as the delta variant caused COVID-19 cases to spike.

“We’ve continued to monitor data from our state Department of Health, and have determined we are able to adjust the timing of our statewide mask requirement. While this represents another step forward for Washingtonians, we must still be mindful that many within our communities remain vulnerable. Many businesses and families will continue choosing to wear masks, because we’ve learned how effective they are at keeping one another safe. As we transition to this next phase, we will continue to move forward together carefully and cautiously,” Inslee said in a statement Monday.