Stricter new masking rules continue to roll in. The latest directive comes from the King County health department, which recently announced a requirement that all people 5 years of age or older attending large outdoor events must wear face coverings to help mitigate the spread of COVID, regardless of vaccination status.
This new rule goes into effect Tuesday, September 7, and applies to events of 500 people or more where social distancing can’t be maintained. It’s also more comprehensive than the state’s current mask mandate covering mostly indoor public settings, and supersedes it. While Seattle restaurants and bars probably won’t be impacted, those going to open-air sporting events, such as Seahawks, Sounders, Huskies, and Mariners games, will now have to wear masks in the stands, whenever not actively eating or drinking. Previously, those venues had masking guidelines that applied only to indoor areas.
King County’s announcement comes not long after the Washington State Hospital Association (WSHA) sounded the alarm over the continued rise in COVID cases and hospitalizations due to the highly contagious delta variant. When discussing the upcoming state fair in Puyallup, scheduled to begin September 3 and run through September 26, WSHA president Cassie Sauer said frankly, “we think it’s a bad idea.” Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department then issued a mandate requiring masks be worn at all times at the fair both indoors and outdoors, for both vaccinated and unvaccinated attendees.
Though COVID outbreaks in King County have not been as severe as in other parts of the state or country, cases and hospitalizations remain elevated, prompting the revised rules. As it stands now, the local case rate over the past week stands at 183 per 100,000 people (considered “high transmission”), and around 77.8 percent of eligible residents 12 and older have completed their vaccine series.
“Today’s order fully recognizes the risk to communities and our healthcare system if we don’t take action now to further prevent the spread of COVID-19,” King County executive Dow Constantine said in a statement.