Masks now required for everyone in indoor settings. Learn more.

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Mask Guidance

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Washington State has mandated face coverings indoors for all individuals effective Aug. 23, 2021.

Mask Requirements

August 18, 2021 –

Governor Inslee Announces State-wide Mask Mandate Effective Aug. 23, 2021

The expansion comes after Washington recently broke the previous record for COVID hospitalizations set in December. Every county in the state currently falls within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) substantial or high transmission, and each of the state’s 35 local health officers recently recommended all individuals wear masks indoors.

There will be limited exceptions when face coverings won’t be required, such as office spaces not easily accessible to the public where individuals are vaccinated, and when working alone indoors or in a vehicle with no public face-to-face interaction. Small, private indoor gatherings where all attendees are vaccinated are also exempt.

While not required, the Department of Health strongly recommends individuals also wear masks in crowded outdoor settings, such as outdoor concerts, fairs and farmers markets.

» Proclamation

 

Washington State Masking Order

Washington State Order of the Secretary of Health 20-03.4 is a mandate (law) and is valid over any other language or documents previously released by the Washington State Department of Health:

» Washington Secretary of Health Masking Order FAQs – DOH

» CDC guidance

» Cloth Face Covering Guidance During COVID-19 – DOH

  • Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated individuals still need to wear masks.
  • 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.
  • Health Officers 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.
    • 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.

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

GRAPHICS AND HELPFUL DOCUMENTS

Learn more about protecting yourself and others

Masking in Schools

All information below is listed in: K-12 School Guidance for 2021-2022 School Year

Appropriate Use of Face Coverings or Masks
Correct use of cloth face coverings or masks helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 and is required when indoors at K-12 facilities for all school personnel, students, and visitors. There are specific exceptions based on age, development, or disability outlined below. See DOH’s Guidance on Cloth Face Coverings and CDC Recommendation Regarding the Use of Cloth Face Coverings for more information. In some circumstances, staff may require a higher level of protection. Refer to L&I’s Coronavirus Facial Covering and Mask Requirements for additional details.

The CDC’s order requiring masks on public transportation, regardless of vaccination status, applies to school buses and transportation. Passengers and drivers are required to wear a mask on school buses.

General Information
A cloth face covering is anything that completely covers the mouth and nose and fits securely on the sides of the face and under the chin. It should be made of two or more layers of tightly woven fabric with ties or straps that go around a person’s head or behind their ears. 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. A face shield with a drape may also be used by children with similar conditions in childcare, day camp, and K-12 settings.

Face coverings or masks with ear loops are preferred over ones that tie around the neck or behind the head during physical activity to reduce the risk of injury. Schools must provide face coverings or masks, as appropriate, for staff and students who do not have them.

As noted in the Secretary of Health’s Mask Order, face coverings should not be worn by:

  • Those under 2 years of age.
  • People with a medical condition, mental health condition, developmental or cognitive condition, or disability that prevents wearing a face covering. This includes, but is not limited to, people with a medical condition for whom wearing a face covering could obstruct breathing or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance.
  • Those who are deaf or hard of hearing, and those who provide their instruction and
    use facial and mouth movements as part of communication.
    • In rare circumstances when a cloth face covering cannot be worn, students and staff
      may use a clear face covering or a face shield with a drape or wrap as an alternative to
      a cloth face covering. If used, face shields should extend below the chin, wrap around
      to the ears, and have no gap at the forehead.
    • Younger students age 2 to 4 years old must be supervised when wearing a face
      covering or face shield. These students may need help with their masks and getting
      used to wearing them.
    • Continue practicing physical distancing while wearing cloth face coverings.
    • Students may remove face coverings to eat and drink, and when they are outside.
    • The school is responsible for providing appropriate PPE for all staff, including those who provide assistance to students who have special needs.

Indoor Mask Requirements
All school personnel, volunteers, visitors, and students must wear cloth face coverings, or an acceptable alternative (e.g., surgical mask or clear face shield with a drape), at school when indoors. Staff who are verified to be fully vaccinated may be indoors without masks when students are not present or expected to be present.

School districts must support compliance with mask requirements among staff, students, volunteers, visitors, and families.

Outdoor Mask Requirements
Per the Secretary of Health’s Mask Order, face coverings are not required outdoors, regardless of vaccination status. Masks are strongly recommended for all individuals when outdoors in crowded spaces or when in close contact with people from outside their household for a sustained period of time, as the risk of COVID-19 infection increases with the duration and closeness of contact between individuals. Schools should support students and staff who choose to wear a mask or face covering outdoors

Studies Supporting Mask Efficacy

References

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?

Indoors per the Washington State Secretary of Health’s order.

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 and indoors per the Washington State Secretary of Health’s order. 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 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.

Proclamations and Recommendations

August 18, 2021 –

Governor Inslee Announces State-wide Mask Mandate Effective Aug. 23, 2021

The expansion comes after Washington recently broke the previous record for COVID hospitalizations set in December. Every county in the state currently falls within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) substantial or high transmission, and each of the state’s 35 local health officers recently recommended all individuals wear masks indoors.

There will be limited exceptions when face coverings won’t be required, such as office spaces not easily accessible to the public where individuals are vaccinated, and when working alone indoors or in a vehicle with no public face-to-face interaction. Small, private indoor gatherings where all attendees are vaccinated are also exempt.

While not required, the Department of Health strongly recommends individuals also wear masks in crowded outdoor settings, such as outdoor concerts, fairs and farmers markets.

» Proclamation

 

August 12, 2021 –

Joint Statement from Local Health Officers Regarding
Need for Masks in Indoor Public Spaces

The health officers representing all 35 local health jurisdictions in Washington state have joined together to pass on their best public health advice to protect you, your family, and our communities. We recommend all residents wear facial coverings when in indoor public settings where the vaccination status of those around you is unknown. This step 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.

Vaccinations are our best defense against COVID-19 and are safe, effective, and readily available for everyone age 12 and over. Please get yours immediately if you are not already vaccinated.

July 29, 2021 –

Mask Recommendation from Benton and Franklin Counties’ Health Officer

In accordance with CDC guidance, Dr. Amy Person, health officer for Benton and Franklin counties, has issued a recommendation that in areas of high transmission as defined by the CDC, all individuals in our counties should wear masks both indoors, and outdoors in crowded settings, regardless of vaccination status.