Washington state will follow new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and allow people who are fully vaccinated to forgo masks outdoors and indoors.
Customers and employees in stores, restaurants and businesses can go without masks if they are fully vaccinated under state guidelines, effective immediately.
Businesses will still have the right to require masks for employees and customers on their own, but there’s no state mandate. Individuals can continue to wear masks if they want, Gov. Jay Inslee said.
“The recommendations, as celebratory as they are, refer to people who are fully vaccinated,” Inslee said.
Masks will still be required in health care settings like hospitals, long-term care centers and doctor’s offices; correctional facilities, homeless shelters and schools. They also will be required on public transportation under a federal mask order.
People need to be two weeks past their second Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or two weeks past a one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, to be considered fully vaccinated.
Inslee said state officials see it as a way to encourage people to get vaccinated.
“This is a heck of a benefit,” he said. “That shot is a ticket to freedom from masks.”
The CDC issued its new advice Thursday. The state is updating documents used by the Department of Health and Labor and Industries, Inslee said.
Dr. Umair Shah, the state secretary of health, said the CDC is lifting the requirements because the science shows that vaccines offer strong protection against COVID-19.
“The vaccines are effective and it’s not just theoretical effectiveness, it’s real-world experience that shows that vaccines work,” he said. “They protect the individual who has been vaccinated, and are protective against variants at this time.”
He said they also prevent people from transmitting the virus.
Yakima Health District health officer Dr. Larry Jecha also said the new mask guidance is good news for people who are fully vaccinated.
“There are some individuals who for medical reasons cannot get this vaccine,” he said in a statement. “This is why it’s so important for everyone who can, to do so as soon as possible.”
Businesses are legally allowed to check vaccine status, Inslee said. At the moment, the state isn’t requiring businesses to check. People can bring their vaccine card to show, take a photo of their card on their phone, or download immunization records from https://wa.myir.net.