WA residents age 12+ eligible for COVID-19 Vaccine (age varies by vaccine brand)

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Mask Guidance

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Washington State has adopted CDC guidance on masking for fully vaccinated individuals. Washington State Department of Health and L&I guidance will be posted when available.

Mask Requirements

» Face Covering and Mask Guidance

Washington State requires face coverings for unvaccinated individuals (regardless of past COVID-19 infection) indoors when outside your home and outside when distancing cannot be maintained.

According to CDC guidance, and as adopted by Washington State, fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations (i.e. in health care settings, long-term care, medical provider offices, correctional facilities, shelters for those experiencing homelessness, schools, and on public transportation – planes, buses, trains).

***All local and national businesses have the right to require face coverings regardless of vaccination status. Watch for postings at their entrance or contact the business if you are unclear of their requirements. Your employer will tell you their requirements.***

 

On May 25, 2021 Benton-Franklin Health District (BFHD) Health Officer, Dr. Amy Person rescinded local directives: Masking in Public and the “No Mask, No Service in Businesses.” Both directives had been issued last summer to address rising case rates and widespread transmission of COVID-19. With the availability of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccination, COVID-19 disease rates and transmission are improving in Benton and Franklin counties in line with the rest of Washington State. Local masking requirements beyond what is required by Washington State through Order of the Secretary of Health 20-03.2 are no longer necessary.

  • Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated individuals still need to wear masks. Fully vaccinated individuals at higher risk may choose to continue to wear masks when inside public spaces.
  • Face masks are still required in health care settings like hospitals, long-term care, or doctor’s offices; correctional facilities, homeless shelters, or schools.
  • The federal order requiring masks on public transportation also still applies.
  • People who aren’t vaccinated are required to wear a mask, per the Secretary’s order.
  • Businesses have the right to set stricter rules and regulations on face coverings to respond to the level of transmission in the community.
  • If you walk into an establishment that requires masks, you will be asked to respect those rules.

Additional information and commonly asked questions are available at www.coronavirus.wa.gov/masks and www.doh.wa.gov/masks.

 

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Cloth Face Coverings

What kinds of masks are OK to Use?
A cloth face covering is anything from a scarf or bandanna to a sewn mask with ties or straps that go around your head or behind your ears. These types of face coverings are appropriate in public settings, although more protective coverings, such as masks or respirators may be required in the workplace.

Medical grade masks, surgical masks, and N95 respirators are needed for healthcare workers and first responders who are on the front lines working to protect our communities. Unfortunately, these masks are in short supply.

pile of masks

How to wear a mask
According to CDC, cloth face coverings should—

  • Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
  • Be secured with ties or ear loops
  • Include multiple layers of fabric
  • Allow for breathing without restriction
  • Be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape

For information about helping children to wear a mask, see this article from the Washington State Department of Health.

How to use a mask safely
Cloth face masks must be worn properly to avoid contaminating the hands or face of the user.

  • Before putting on a mask and after removing a mask, an individual should clean their hands with alcohol-based hand sanitizer or soap and water.
  • Change masks when moist and wash after use.
  • While in use, avoid touching the mask. Worn masks may be contaminated with infectious agents

Where can I find a cloth face covering?
More and more retailers are selling cloth face coverings online and in stores. Visit the Washington Mask Challenge for information. The CDC has instructions on how to make no-sew masks. The website also provides information on how to make and clean masks.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where does the statewide requirement apply?

For unvaccinated people, public settings including:

  • Inside of or in line to enter any indoor public space
  • Seeking health care services including, but not limited to, a hospital, pharmacy, medical clinic, laboratory, physician or dental office, veterinary clinic, or blood bank; and
  • Waiting for or riding on public transportation
  • Outdoors and unable to keep six feet away from others not in their household

For vaccinated people:

  • Where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.

What about at work?

In the workplace, employees are required to wear face coverings at work, as required by the Department of Labor & Industries Coronavirus Hazard Considerations for Employers. Workplace health and safety requirements related to COVID-19 are adopted and enforced by the Department of Labor & Industries. See the Department of Labor & Industries COVID-19 Workplace Safety and Health Requirements for more information.

What about K-12 schools?

In schools, teachers, visitors, volunteers and students are required to wear face coverings consistent with the Governor’s Proclamation 20-09.2 Phased Reopening of K-12 Schools, the K-12 Schools Summer Guidance and K-12 Fall 2020-2021 Guidance, and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s Reopening Washington Schools 2020 District Planning Guide.

A face shield with a drape can be used by people with developmental, behavioral, or medical conditions that prevent them from wearing a face covering. Face shields may also be used by children in childcare, day camp, and K-12 settings. If used, face shields should extend below the chin, to the ears, and have no gap at the forehead. The addition of a drape may offer more protection.

What about physical and behavioral health facilities, and long-term care facilities?

Staff at these facilities are required to wear face coverings consistent with L&I’s Safety and Health requirements. For residents, patients, and visitors, face covering requirements will be determined by the medical director of medical facilities. For residents and visitors to long-term care facilities, we are awaiting guidance from the state.

A face shield with a drape can be used by people with developmental, behavioral, or medical conditions that prevent them from wearing a face covering. Face shields may also be used by children in childcare, day camp, and K-12 settings.

What about child care?

Children and youth age five years or older must wear cloth face coverings at child care, preschool, or day camp when indoors. Children age two to four years may wear cloth face coverings, but it is not mandated.

A face shield with a drape can be used by people with developmental, behavioral, or medical conditions that prevent them from wearing a face covering. Face shields may also be used by children in childcare, day camp, and K-12 settings.

What about correctional facilities?

Staff at correctional facilities are required to wear face coverings consistent with L&I’s Safety and Health requirements. The Department of Corrections is requiring and providing face coverings for incarcerated individuals in state facilities.

Why Is It Important to Wear Cloth Face Coverings?

CDC recommends that non-vaccinated people cover their noses and mouths with a cloth face covering to prevent spreading COVID-19 in public settings where it’s difficult to maintain physical distancing measures (staying six feet apart).

Researchers have found that some people who have COVID-19 do not have any symptoms (they are asymptomatic) but are able to spread the virus without knowing it. When a face covering is worn by someone who is infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, it can help prevent the spread of infection to others by preventing droplets from breathing, coughing, sneezing, and singing from entering the air breathed by others. 

Why is it important to wear face coverings now when it wasn’t encouraged before?

In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, the public was asked to avoid wearing medical-grade masks. Medical grade masks, like surgical masks and N95 masks, are necessary pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers and should be preserved for that use—to ensure healthcare workers’ safety. The public was asked to avoid using these critical supplies.

More information is now available about how COVID-19 spreads, including that individuals who are asymptomatic can spread the virus. People are asked to wear cloth face coverings in public to avoid spreading the virus to others, because they may have the virus without knowing it. This is an important action we all can take to prevent a second wave of new COVID-19 infections and help businesses remain open during this phased approach to reopen Washington.

Does Everyone Have to Wear a Face Covering?

Vaccinated individuals can follow CDC guidance regarding face coverings. Some are not able to wear face masks for specific health-related reasons; this includes the following:

 It is encouraged to have children ages 3-5 wear a covering if possible. In no case should children under two years of age wear a face covering due to the risk of suffocation.

  • Any individual who has a physical disability that prevents easily wearing or removing a face covering
  • Any individual who is deaf and uses facial and mouth movements as part of communication or an individual who is communicating with a person who is deaf and uses facial and mouth movements as part of communication
  • Any individual who has been told by a medical professional that wearing a face covering may pose a health risk to that individual
  • Any individual who has trouble breathing, is unconscious or unable to remove the face covering without help
  • A face shield with a drape can be used by people with developmental, behavioral, or medical conditions that prevent them from wearing a face covering. Face shields may also be used by children in childcare, day camp, and K-12 settings.