SEATTLE — Washington state’s indoor mask mandate lifted at 11:59 p.m. on March 11 after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new guidance at the beginning of the month.
The CDC updated its masking guidance on Feb. 28, saying that only counties with high transmission levels should continue to wear masks inside most places.
According to the CDC’s map, all but one county in Washington fall into this category. Previously, the CDC had recommended masks in all communities regardless of transmission levels.
But where will masks still be required, and where won't they be?
Where masks are still required
Statewide, masks are still required in healthcare settings and on public transit. This falls in line with the CDC's guidance that says universal masking is still required in airports, on airplanes, buses and other forms of public transit.
- Healthcare and medical facilities, including hospitals, outpatient, dental facilities and pharmacies
- Long-term care settings
- Public transit, taxis and rideshare vehicles (federal requirement)
- Correctional facilities
Where masks are no longer required
Those visiting or working in public places are no longer required to wear a mask, dependent on individual policies from private businesses or local governments.
- Schools, childcare facilities and libraries
- Restaurants and bars
- Houses of worship
- Gyms, recreation centers and indoor athletic facilities
- Grocery stores, businesses and retail establishments
King County announced it would also be ending its mask mandate at 11:59 p.m. on March 11.
The Washington state Department of Health (DOH) also updated its masking guidelines, and although it is no longer recommending masks be universally worn in schools beginning March 12, a few requirements for schools will remain in place.
Schools and childcare providers must still report COVID-19 cases and outbreaks. Additionally, people with symptoms must isolate for at least five days and "should" wear a mask or receive a negative test if they return to the classroom between six to 10 days, according to the DOH.
Schools may implement more requirements at "any time" or in response to an outbreak, according to the DOH.
Seattle Public Schools (SPS), the largest school district in the state, announced it will also lift its mandatory mask requirement Monday.
SPS said face masks will be optional indoors and outdoors for students, staff, volunteers and visitors. Masks will also be optional on school buses.
Though masking will be optional inside SPS buildings beginning Monday, SPS Superintendent Brent Jones said masking is still strongly encouraged by students and staff.
Washington’s previous target date of March 21 was chosen because it was the date the state said COVID hospital admission rates would hit five per 100,000 residents.
As of March 8, the statewide COVID hospitalization rate is about eight admissions per 100,000 residents.
Health leaders from Washington, Oregon and California discussed the guidance and determined the new dates. California lifted its mask mandate on March 1, while both Washington and Oregon committed to lifting theirs by March 12.