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King County's indoor masking recommendation a tough sell for some people and businesses

Health officials are now advising mask-wearing in indoor public settings in King County regardless of vaccination status.

SEATTLE — A new recommendation by King County public health officials to wear masks again in indoor public settings has some business operators and customers balking at the idea of returning to them.

The recommendation, laid out in this blog post by Public Health -- Seattle & King County on Friday, says all residents five years and older are advised to wear a face covering in indoor public settings again, whether they are vaccinated or not.

The county's health officer, Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, said in a briefing Friday that the delta variant has been driving the recent rise in COVID cases.

"The number of new cases has more than doubled in just three weeks since June 29, when the mask directive was lifted." Duchin said.

The new recommendation has some business operators wishing for a clearer direction.

"It's a little bit frustrating from my end. Should we make them wear them, should we not make them wear them?" said Aaron Finney, manager at Trophy Pizza, a sports pub in Seattle's Pioneer Square neighborhood.

Finney said fully vaccinated people do not need to wear a mask inside the bar restaurant seating area, or outside on the patio. But unvaccinated people do need to wear a mask.

"Nobody's going to wear a mask on suggestion. You're going to either make it a requirement or it doesn't make any sense to me," Finney said.

Visitors who are vacationing in Seattle from Los Angeles said they appreciated not having to mask up in Seattle after recently reverting to a a mask mandate in Los Angeles County due to rising COVID cases.

"It was kind of like, oh great. We're back tracking to where we were. We're just going to continue going back," said Karie Ubelaker.

But in Seattle, where state guidelines say fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask in most indoor public settings, Ubelaker is enjoying the freedom.

"It feels great. It's like liberating," Ubelaker said.

The delta variant is a growing concern among public health officials who are tracking the virus's course closely. Studies have shown the delta variant to be highly infectious and is now a dominant variant in Washington. 

"Of the recent COVID-19 test samples genetically sequenced in King County, about 90 percent represent a variant of concern and not the original strain of the virus, and about 60 percent of these are the Delta variant," according to Public Health - Seattle & King County.

COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths, while relatively low in King County compared to past peaks, are beginning to go up, according to Duchin.