Health officials in eight western Washington counties are now recommending mask-wearing in indoor public spaces regardless of vaccine status because of a rise in COVID-19 cases and the highly infectious delta variant.
Public Health Seattle & King County officials said on Monday in a joint statement with the counties that local health officers from around the Puget Sound region were joining together in the recommendation after King County health officer, Dr. Jeff Duchin, issued the this guidance on Friday.
Officials in Pierce, Snohomish, Kitsap, Clallam, Jefferson, San Juan and Grays Harbor counties have joined King in the recommendation.
“This step will help reduce the risk of COVID-19 to the public, including customers and workers, help stem the increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in many parts of the state, and decrease the spread of the highly contagious delta variant,” county officials said in the joint statement.
State health officials have talked about masking in public indoor spaces but aren’t currently making the same recommendation. State’s epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist has said state officials support local jurisdictions' efforts.
Duchin said on Friday that a factor driving up cases and leading to the indoor masking recommendation is the changing habits of people who stopped masking when a public indoor masking mandate was lifted June 29.
The extra layer of protection is intended for settings like grocery stores, restaurants, retail, theaters, and entertainment establishments, where people can’t be sure everyone is vaccinated, he said.