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Washington employers can let workers go without masks if they’re fully vaccinated

The Dept. of Labor & Industries says employers can allow workers to go without a mask or social distancing if they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

SEATTLE — The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has released new guidance for employers regarding mask wearing and COVID-19 vaccinations for their employees. 

One big change states employers must confirm workers are fully vaccinated before allowing the employee to go without a face covering.

Employers can still continue to require employees to wear face masks, regardless of their vaccination status, if they choose. And fully vaccinated employees who still wish to wear face masks can continue to do so.

The new guidelines from L&I state: 

  • Fully vaccinated employees do not have to wear a mask or socially distance at work, unless their employer or local public health agency still requires it.
  • Before ending mask and social distance requirements, employers must confirm workers are fully vaccinated — by having the worker either sign a document attesting to their status or provide proof of vaccination. 
  • Employers must be able to demonstrate they have verified vaccination status for workers who are not masked or physically distanced. Verification methods may include: 
    • Creating a log of workers who have verified they’ve been vaccinated and the date of verification. 
    • Checking vaccination status each day as workers enter a jobsite.
    • Marking a worker’s badge or credential to show that they are vaccinated, or other methods demonstrating an employer has verified worker vaccination status may also meet the standard. 

L&I said acceptable documentation to verify an employee's vaccine status includes a CDC vaccination card, a photo of the card, documentation from a health care provider, a signed attestation from the worker, or documentation from the state immunization information system. 

Evidence of the verification system must be available to L&I upon request.

The new guidelines are in response to Gov. Jay Inslee announcing last week the state will follow recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that state fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear masks in most indoor and outdoor settings.

People who are not fully vaccinated are still required to wear face masks in all public spaces. 

The new L&I guidance does not change masking rules for health care settings like hospitals, long-term care, or doctor's offices; correctional facilities, homeless shelters, schools, child care centers or day camps. 

A federal order requiring masks on public transportation also remains in place. 

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated that employers must provide employee vaccine status to L&I. The agency only needs to see evidence of the verification system.