FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 11, 2022
What to Know About the Mask Requirements Lifting
State and federal partners have provided updated guidance
SNOHOMISH COUNTY, WA – As the statewide mask order lifts at midnight tonight, masks become optional in most public settings but still are required in certain venues or situations.
Though local health jurisdictions have the authority to put in place mask requirements at the county level, the Snohomish Health District is aligning with the statewide rules and is not currently putting more strict masking requirements in place for Snohomish County.
There are some settings and situations where masks will continue to be required:
- Health care settings such as hospitals, outpatient and dental offices, or long-term care settings.
- Jails or correctional facilities.
- Federal law still requires face masks in certain settings such as public transportation, currently in effect through April 18. Check the latest guidance from CDC for travel by bus, air, train, or other modes.
- Masks will also continue to be required for isolation and quarantines practices.
- If someone who was COVID-positive is returning to work, school, or other public settings after a 5-day isolation period, they must wear a well-fitting mask for days 6-10 after their symptom onset or positive test result.
- Anyone who has been exposed to someone with COVID-19 must continue to wear a mask when around others for the full 10 days after exposure.
- Businesses and local governments may choose to implement vaccination or face mask requirements for workers or customers. For example, the Snohomish Health District continues to require masks for customers and employees at its offices at this time.
- Schools and child cares may choose to have students and teachers wear masks.
Also remember that some people may choose to continue wearing masks. Anyone who feels more comfortable wearing one should continue doing so. We urge people to respect those who choose to wear masks even where they are no longer required. You cannot tell the underlying risks of illness they may be facing. Continued use of masks is a worthwhile consideration for people with risk factors for severe disease, as well as people whose COVID immunization status is not up to date.
The lifting of the mask mandate does not signal the end of the possible need for masking nor the end of the COVID pandemic. Please remain vigilant and flexible for future times when universal use of masks may be needed to protect ourselves, others, the healthcare system, and other essential societal functions.
“The recent decrease in COVID transmission and reduced COVID burden on the healthcare system is welcome news for all, giving the state confidence in lifting this masking order. However, a return to universal public indoor masking, as well as other prevention measures, may be needed again if a subsequent wave of infection leads to a healthcare surge or similar impacts,” said Dr. Chris Spitters, Health Officer for the Snohomish Health District. “I suspect that’s likely to occur at some point down the road--perhaps next fall or winter, or possibly sooner. More important than the details of the de-escalation is our collective readiness and willingness to resume such measures when circumstances call for it.”
There are likely a number of questions from businesses, community groups and residents. Information will continue to be updated at www.snohd.org/masks.
Other illness prevention steps still are important, including staying home if you feel ill and testing if you have COVID symptoms. Optimizing ventilation and filtration in indoor spaces is another good strategy for reducing transmission of illness. Measures such as physical distancing and limiting size of social gatherings are up to individual discretion. As with masks, individual risk and comfort levels will vary, so please be respectful of others’ decisions.
Employers also should continue to follow guidance from the Washington Department of Labor and Industries, for which updates related to this change are underway.
Schools and Child Care
The Washington State Department of Health released updated guidance earlier this week for K-12 schools, child care, early learning, youth development and day camp programs.
Mask requirements are lifted starting March 12 for schools and child cares aside from masking to meet isolation and quarantine requirements. However, school or child care settings are empowered to still require masking for students, staff, volunteers and visitors at their discretion.
Certain prevention measures still are required, including:
- All employees and volunteers in educational settings are required to be fully vaccinated or have a medical or religious exemption per Governor’s proclamation 21-14.3.
- Any student, child, or staff member who reports or exhibits COVID-like symptoms is required to isolate from others and test as soon as feasible, regardless of vaccination status.
- Cases and outbreaks of COVID-19 in schools and provider facilities are required to be reported to public health in accordance with DOH guidance and Washington State Law (WAC 246-101).
- Employers are required to notify L&I about outbreaks of 10 or more staff members at a facility.
- Universal masking and other prevention measures may be required during clusters and/or outbreaks in classrooms or within groups of students, or within provider settings, to limit disease transmission and ensure continuity of in-person instruction and care.
Most of the layered prevention measures, such as screening tests, ventilation, and physical distancing, are now advisory. Schools and child care facilities may choose to keep some or all of these measures in place. There may also be individuals who choose to continue to wear masks and they should be supported in doing so.
There may be situations, such as a significant outbreak, which would requiring reinstating of these prevention measures.
Vaccine and testing updates
Today is the last day of COVID vaccinations at the Ash Way Park & Ride mass vaccination site. That location, which has been a dual vaccination and testing site, is transitioning to COVID testing only.
Vaccines still are free and readily available throughout Snohomish County. For more information on how to get your vaccines or booster, visit www.snohd.org/covidvaccine.
To sign up for a testing appointment at a Snohomish Health District testing site or to find other testing resources, go to www.snohd.org/testing.
Appointments are encouraged for testing, but walk-ins are accepted based on availability. To schedule an appointment, visit www.snohd.org/testing. Those without internet access, needing language assistance, or requiring additional support in scheduling can reach the Health District’s call center at 425.339.5278 to schedule a testing or vaccine appointment. Callers after hours or on holidays or weekends can leave a message, which will be returned on the next business day.