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Outdoor mask enforcement still murky as Washington's statewide mandate starts

In King County, enforcement will be up to the venue and event organizers.

FEDERAL WAY, Wash. — People attending large outdoor events in Washington state will be required to wear a face mask starting Monday. But what's less clear is how the rule will be enforced.

Gov. Jay Inslee, alongside Washington Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah, announced Thursday that people age 5 and older who attend outdoor events with 500 or more people will need to mask up starting Monday, Sept. 13. The rule applies whether you are vaccinated or not.

The announcement comes after King and Pierce counties implemented their own outdoor mask mandates for large public events due to a rise in COVID-19 delta variant cases and hospitalizations.

Such gatherings include sporting events, outdoor concerts and fairs.

"In the last six weeks, we've had five outdoor events that became super spreader events in the state of Washington," said Shah.

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At the rivalry football game between Federal Way High School and Todd Beamer High School Friday night, the majority of people donned masks, but enforcing masks for the very few who were not wearing one was not observed.

School officials were not immediately available for comment Friday night regarding how outdoor mask-wearing will be enforced during football games. Although, a reminder sign was posted at the field entrance gate.

"As with our other face masks orders, our implementation focus has been on education and outreach," Kate Cole, with Public Health – Seattle & King County communications, wrote in an email statement. "As part of the implementation, we reached out to venues and organizations that the policy applies to – schools, sports teams, entertainment venues, etc."

The statement continued, "We've seen high levels of compliance with our previous face mask orders, and we don't expect this to be any different. In the event of complaints of egregious non-compliance, county or city officials contact event organizers and take action as feasible."

Inslee was also asked about enforcement during his press availability on Thursday.

"This is a requirement on entities that have these organizational pursuits," said Inslee. "It can be enforced through the Labor & Industries as we have in all of our systems."

A webpage dedicated to mask policy on the Washington Department of Health website said there could be potential fines, though it is unclear if they apply to indoor or outdoor mask requirements.

"We hope people will wear a face covering to protect the health of their friends and loved ones. However, not following the order may result in a misdemeanor subjecting the violator to a fine of up to $100 and/or up to 90 days in county jail," the information said.

Some spectators at Friday's football game in Federal Way High said forcing people to wear masks may not be easy.

"I'm not really gonna say to someone else, 'Hey put your mask on and be a stickler, like, that's just not my thing," said Keenan Curran.