Washington state to lift indoor mask mandate March 21 for most places

Washington’s statewide indoor mask mandate, one of the few left in the country, will lift on March 21, including at schools and child care facilities, Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday.

And starting on March 1, vaccine verification or proof of a negative COVID-19 test will no longer be required for attendance at large events.

Masks will still be required in health care settings, like hospitals and doctor’s offices, and at long-term care facilities and prisons and jails. They will also still be required on public transit, taxis and ride shares and school buses.


Washington state to end mask mandate March 21 for most places including schools, Inslee announces

Beginning March 21, masks will no longer be required in most places in Washington state including restaurants, bars, schools, childcare facilities, gyms, houses of worship and grocery stores, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday.

Private businesses and local governments that want to require masks for employees, customers or residents can still require them.

Like the rest of the country, Washington — which first imposed a statewide mask mandate in June 2020 — has seen a steady decline in both cases and hospitalizations since the height of the omicron surge last month.

Last May, the state changed its requirements to align with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which allowed vaccinated people to go without a mask indoors, but that exception was rescinded in August of 2021 after the delta variant emerged. A face covering requirement for outdoor events of 500 or more people was imposed in September, but Inslee announced last week that mandate would lift on Friday.

Also starting Friday, non-urgent procedures — which have been on hold since last month due to concerns about hospital capacity — can resume, since the governor decided to not extend the ban beyond the set four weeks.

Democratic governors in several states have already ended or set dates to end masking rules in public places or in schools. New Mexico’s governor announced Thursday that the statewide mask mandate there was being lifted, effective immediately, leaving Hawaii as the only state that has not indicated when its indoor mask mandates may be rescinded.

RELATED: Nearly 50 Eastern WA superintendents call for end to mask mandate

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a White House briefing Wednesday that the government is contemplating a change to its mask guidance in the coming weeks.

On Wednesday, King County — where Seattle is located — announced it will no longer require COVID vaccination checks to enter restaurants, bars, theaters and gyms beginning March 1.

READ MORE: Seattle, King County to end vaccine verification policy at restaurants, gyms, theaters March 1

There have been more than 1.4 million confirmed or probable cases in the state since the start of the pandemic and 11,522 deaths.

More than 80% of the Washington population age 5 and older has received at least one dose of vaccine, and nearly 73% is fully vaccinated.

As of this week, more than 2.5 million people have either received a booster or a third dose, according to the Department of Health.

Get breaking news alerts in the FREE FOX 13 Seattle app. Download for Apple iOS or Android. And sign up for BREAKING NEWS emails delivered straight to your inbox.

Stay connected with FOX 13 News on all platforms:
DOWNLOAD: FOX 13 News and Weather Apps
WATCH: FOX 13 News Live
SUBSCRIBE: FOX 13 on YouTube
DAILY BRIEF: Sign Up For Our Newsletter
FOLLOW: Facebook Twitter Instagram