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King County Will End Indoor Mask Directive on June 29

The county has reached the 70 percent fully vaccinated threshold

A blue cloth surgical mask sits between two place settings on a wood table next to a small bottle of hand sanitizer.
King County’s mask directive will lift one day before the state is scheduled to remove capacity restrictions on restaurants.

Some major changes in Seattle dining are on the immediate horizon. On Tuesday, June 15, Public Health Seattle & King County (PHSKC) announced that 70 percent of eligible residents are now fully vaccinated. As such, the health department will lift the current mask directive June 29, one day before the entire state is due to lift most COVID restrictions.

In May, PHSKC issued guidelines that strongly advises all residents to keep their faces covered indoors, including restaurants, whether fully vaccinated or not. Even though it wasn’t a legally enforceable mandate, this was stricter than the guidance from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which said that vaccinated people could go without masks in certain indoor settings. According to the original language, King County’s directive would remain in effect until 70 percent or more of adults 16 years of age and older are fully vaccinated.

Seattle actually reached that mark on June 9, but the whole county had been just shy of the threshold, and there was some confusion about when the directive would be lifted. Even though the county is at 70 percent fully vaccinated, local health officials don’t consider full immunization until two weeks after people receive their second COVID Moderna or Pfizer shot (or single Johnson & Johnson shot). The current dashboard only reflects people who have finished their vaccine series, without accounting for the two-week waiting period. So that’s why King County is waiting until June 29 to lift the directive.

Statewide, many small businesses are keeping an eye on the vaccination numbers for those who have received at least one dose. Gov. Jay Inslee has said that Washington could fully reopen sooner than June 30 — meaning no capacity limits on restaurants — if 70 percent of people 16 years of age or older were vaccinated. But the number reported by the state’s health department is still hovering around 67 percent, despite the fact that data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that Washington may have surpassed the 70 percent threshold.

Inslee said the state tracks different vaccination numbers than the federal government, with the former counting those 16 years of age or older who have been fully vaccinated, and the latter counting only people 18 and older. The governor reiterated on Tuesday that he’s not going to change tacts now, since Washington is “on the two-yard line” when it comes to its vaccination effort.