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Pierce County issues outdoor mask mandate for large events

Everyone age 5 and up in Pierce County must wear a mask at outdoor events with 500 attendees or more.

Pierce County instated a mandate Friday requiring people to mask up at large outdoor gatherings.

Health Director Dr. Anthony L-T Chen with the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department issued the order, which applies to everyone age 5 and older attending events with 500 or more people. The order goes into effect Sept. 7.

The health department also recommends people wear masks in crowded outdoor settings where it isn’t possible to socially distance.

Masks are already required in public indoor spaces in Pierce County.

A surge in COVID-19 cases due to the delta variant prompted the order. Chen said masks would help reduce transmission and protect people who can’t get the vaccine, like children under 12 years old, or people who are unvaccinated or immunocompromised.

As of Sept. 3, Pierce County reported an average of 640.8 new cases per 100,000 residents over the last 14 days. The hospitalization rate is 19.65 per 100,000 residents, according to the health department.

Although the county's case rate has declined since its most recent peak in mid-August, the hospitalization rate is still climbing and is the highest Pierce County has seen since the start of the pandemic, according to data from the Washington State Department of Health.

Pierce County’s mandate came one day after King County issued a similar order requiring face masks at large outdoor events.

Earlier this week, Chen issued an order requiring masks at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup, which opened Friday.