August 18, 2021
State-wide Mask Mandate
Today, Governor Inslee announced that the existing statewide mask mandate will be expanded to once again include vaccinated individuals in indoor settings effective Monday, August 23. The mask mandate will apply to most all indoor public places across the state, including restaurants, grocery stores, malls, and public-facing offices, regardless of an individual’s vaccination status.
This expansion comes after hospitals throughout Washington State are seeing record-breaking numbers of new COVID patients, and as cases continue to surge in every county. At present, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has marked all 35 counties in Washington as areas of High Community Transition. Disease prevalence is approaching levels last seen in the winter 2020 surge. In Skagit County, 436 new COVID cases have been reported since last Wednesday alone.
“Local cases are increasing at an alarming rate,” said Jennifer Johnson, Skagit County Public Health Director. “We know that people are worried about what they’re seeing in the news and we are hoping that the community will see this announcement as a positive step in getting things back to a manageable place. Current rates are not sustainable—not for our hospitals or for our families. We ask that people please mask up to keep their loved ones safe.”
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. Further, 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.
Educator vaccine requirement
The Governor also announced today that K -12 educators, school staff, coaches, bus drivers, school volunteers and others working in school facilities will have until October 18 to be fully vaccinated as a condition of employment. The requirement includes public, private and charter schools, and comes as schools across the state prepare to return for the 2021–2022 school year amid rapidly increasing case and hospitalization numbers. This does not impact students, regardless of age.
Vaccines will also be a requirement for employees in Washington’s higher education institutions, as well as for most childcare and early learning providers who serve children from multiple households.
Education staff, faculty and contractors are also required to be fully vaccinated by October 18, consistent with the state worker vaccination requirement timeline.
Inslee stated that, as with state employees and private healthcare workers, there will be no test out option. There are limited exceptions under law which employees may apply for, including legitimate medical reasons and sincerely held religious beliefs. For full details, please read the press release here: https://medium.com/@GovInslee/inslee-announces-educator-vaccination-requirement-and-statewide-indoor-mask-mandate-a2f5a47d8a31