SEATTLE — Residents in King County could soon experience increased mask mandates, just days after federal health officials released guidance stating fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks in most indoor and outdoor settings.
The possible changes were signaled in a tweet Monday from Public Health -- Seattle & King County.
The tweet read, "Public Health – Seattle & King County is considering whether ending the indoor mask mandate is the best option in King County at this time and if additional guidance or clarification is needed. We will provide an update later this week."
Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health -- Seattle & King County, said Monday he "strongly" encourages people to continue wearing masks.
"I strongly encourage all King County residents, not just the unvaccinated, to continue wearing masks indoors in public spaces where there are unvaccinated people," said Duchin. "I also strongly recommend our King County businesses continue masking policies that ensure all customers and staff wear face masks."
Public Health -- Seattle & King County also tweeted that over the weekend federal health officials clarified that ending indoor mask mandates should be linked to local COVID-19 case rates and vaccinations.
If Public Health -- Seattle & King County implements any changes on masks, the new guidance would supersede last week's recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In the meantime, there is still quite a bit of confusion surrounding mask usage among residents in western Washington. Some people aren't sure when they're supposed to wear a mask, regardless of their vaccination status.
While many may feel the freedom to go without a mask, Duchin suggested being cautious.
"There’s no easy way to know who is or is not vaccinated in public spaces," said Duchin.
He said he believes the easing of the mask mandate allows everyone, regardless of their vaccination status, to feel the freedom to leave their masks at home.
"We really need to assume going forward that there will be vaccinated and unvaccinated people without masks in indoor settings," he said.
Duchin told KING 5, "It’s perfectly fine for vaccinated people to continue to wear a mask at any time, based on their personal choice, individual risk level of COVID in the community and their comfort level, and particularly reasonable for vaccinated people with weakened immune systems."