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King County's mask directive ends June 29

With 70% of adult residents having completed their vaccination series, the mask directive is ending.

KING COUNTY, Wash. — King County residents will be able to ditch their masks on June 29.

The mask directive will come to an end now that 70% of adults have completed their vaccine series and will be fully vaccinated by the end of the month.

"We took big steps toward this milestone by opening our high-volume vaccination clinics in areas hardest hit by the virus, partnering with dozens of nonprofits to connect with hard-to-reach communities, and now working with schools and mobile teams to get the vaccine to every King County resident," said Executive Dow Constantine. "People across King County have shown what's possible when we work together to keep one another healthy. Now let's finish the task, ensuring that every person in King County can get vaccinated as soon as possible, and defeat this pandemic."

More than 1.3 million residents over the age of 16 have received their vaccine series, making King County the largest in the nation to vaccinate 70% of eligible adults, according to Constantine's office.

The Washington State Department of Health is leaving it up to local health jurisdictions regarding mask wearing, while maintaining the mask guidance from the CDC. The CDC still says masks are required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within or out of the U.S. and transportation hubs like airports. 

In May, Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health -- Seattle & King County said he thought the CDC's previous decision to loosen mask requirements was a little premature, and he could see lifting mask mandates around the time of the state's full reopening date at the end of June. 

Gov. Jay Inslee announced the state would fully reopen June 30; sooner if Washington can vaccinate 70% or more of its residents.

But with the mask directive ending, will that cause more problems as the Delta COVID-19 variant - a "variant of concern" - continues to spread? 

“Obviously, it's spread quite well in India. It's doing that in the UK. And it's even doing that here in Washington state right now,” said Dr. Alex Greninger, assistant professor in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at UW Medicine. 

Health officials say the Delta variant spreads more easily and causes more severe cases of COVID-19. UW Medicine has detected about 250 cases of the variant in the state. Greninger says as more people get out and about and the mask directive is lifted, there’s only one way to maintain control of this contagious variant. 

“This just, just even more reason to get vaccinated, and there's really no other way around it,” Greninger said.