Washington will end mask mandates for bars, restaurants, grocery stores, schools, child care facilities, gyms, and many other indoor establishments on March 21, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday.
“The virus has changed significantly over the past two years, and so has our ability to fight it,” Inslee said at a press conference. “While caution is still needed, we are entering a new phase of the pandemic.”
Local governments still have the authority to choose their own masking guidelines, and King County hasn’t yet announced plans to lift its indoor mask requirement. According to its public health website, the county “will continue to evaluate the appropriate time to lift King County’s local indoor mask order by considering number and severity of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, deaths, as well as the ability for hospitals and the healthcare system to manage.”
The announcement comes one day after King County announced it will drop its vaccine verification requirements for indoor dining on March 1.
Bars and restaurants in King County have been tasked with checking proof of vaccination since October — and requiring indoor diners to where masks when not seated since August — though enforcement has varied wildly at different establishments. Even when the vaccine verification requirement is lifted, and even if the indoor mask mandate drops in King County, it’s likely many Seattle area restaurants will continue to require masks and proof of vaccination.