Washington will follow federal guidance and recommend that even those who are vaccinated wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas where there are “substantial or high” rates of COVID-19, Gov. Jay Inslee said July 28.
Inslee also said the state will continue to require that all students and employees of K-12 schools wear masks when instruction resumes for the coming school year and noted that it is a legal requirement not up to local jurisdictions.
As cases continue to rise across the country, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed course July 27 on some masking guidelines, recommending that even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the delta variant of the coronavirus is fueling infection surges.
New data released last week from the state Department of Health shows that between February and June, residents 12 and older who weren’t fully vaccinated made up about 97% of COVID-19 cases, 96% of hospitalizations and 94% of deaths in this state.
State health officials said the report “underscores once again the need for people to get vaccinated now, if they haven’t already.”
“If they still have questions, we encourage them to speak to their healthcare provider. We all have a role to protect our community, especially those who are most vulnerable,” state Secretary of Health Umair Shah said in a statement.
The recent rise in COVID-19 cases, coupled with the emergence of the highly infectious delta variant, also recently prompted health officials from eight Western Washington counties, including Snohomish, to recommend masks in indoor public spaces.
Meanwhile, Inslee said people who are unvaccinated must wear masks in indoor public spaces, the same as before. He doesn't want to make the new guidance mandatory because he didn't want to take away a benefit from those who are vaccinated.
“People who aren’t vaccinated right now are a danger to their fellow citizens, they create a risk to their fellow citizens and that’s a danger that we can’t ignore,” Inslee said at a news conference last week.
Inslee said he is considering requiring state employees to get vaccinated against the coronavirus or submit to weekly testing.
He also said that making the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for school children — just like the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine — was also possible.
In the Stanwood ZIP code, there were 24 new COVID-19 cases reported last week — up from the 18 the week before, according to the Snohomish Health District. The Stanwood area has seen 81 cases in the past four weeks — up from 22 in the previous four weeks.
Snohomish County saw its two-week COVID rate increase for the fifth straight week to 161 new cases per 100,000 people, up from 70 about a month ago, according to the state Department of Health.
In Island County, the case rate was at 139 infections per 100,000 residents from July 13-26, according to the state Department of Health.
Camano has seen 11 new cases emerge last week, according to Island County Public Health.
A list of vaccination sites by location is available at vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov.