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The Times 

Washington's indoor mask mandate ending 9 days earlier. on March 12

State follows CDC guidance as COVID-19 case rates continue to fall.

 


WALLA WALLA/COLUMBIA COUNTIES—Grocery stores, childcare facilities, gyms, bars, and restaurants are just a few of the indoor industries in Washington preparing for a sooner-than-anticipated mask mandate lift. Governor Jay Inslee Monday announced that Washington’s mask mandate will be lifted on March 12, instead of the original March 21 date.

The announcement was made in a joint statement with the governors of California and Oregon, following updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“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,” Inslee said in the joint statement. “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 of Tuesday, March 1, Walla Walla County had 25 new cases, and 222 active cases. Hospitalizations total 9.

In Columbia County, two active cases. (updated data as of March 3).

According to new CDC metrics, less than 30% of people in the United States live in a county labeled as ‘high risk’ and need to continue to mask indoors. Previously, about 99% of the US population lived in a high risk transmission area.

While the CDC previously looked at transmission within communities as a key metric for transmission likelihood, the new metrics are based on three key points of information: New COVID-19 hospitalizations, hospital capacity, and new COVID-19 cases. Both Walla Walla and Columbia counties have been designated as ‘moderate’ risk under the new guidance.

More than 70% of the US population resides in a ‘moderate’ or ‘low’ risk area, under the new guidance, with the CDC saying that there is no recommendation for indoor masking unless you are at a potential increased risk for COVID-19. The CDC advises that at-risk individuals speak with their healthcare provider to determine if they should continue to mask.

In Washington, indoor mask requirements will be lifted as of 11:59 p.m. on March 11. This new date does not change any other aspect of the updated mask requirements Inslee announced last week. Masks will still be required in certain settings including health care, corrections facilities, long-term care facilities, and public transportation. 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.

 

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