Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is ending the state’s indoor mask mandate on March 12, nine days earlier than planned, after federal officials loosened guidelines on face coverings last week.
Starting March 11 at 11:59 p.m., masks will no longer be required in restaurants, bars, and most other indoor settings in Washington, though they will still be required in certain settings, like health care and correctional facilities. Inslee made the announcement in a joint news release with the governors of Oregon and California, who are also loosening their masking guidelines.
“We’ve continued to monitor data from our state Department of Health, and have determined we are able to adjust the timing of our statewide mask requirement,” Inslee said in the joint statement. “While this represents another step forward for Washingtonians, we must still be mindful that many within our communities remain vulnerable. Many businesses and families will continue choosing to wear masks, because we’ve learned how effective they are at keeping one another safe. As we transition to this next phase, we will continue to move forward together carefully and cautiously.”
King County Executive Dow Constantine announced the same day that the county’s indoor mask order will drop concurrently with the state’s mask mandate. Snohomish County is also lifting its indoor mask mandate on March 12. Meanwhile, King County’s vaccine verification requirement for indoor dining (and other indoor activities) will end March 1.
Throughout the pandemic, Seattle area restaurant owners and workers have been split on their opinions about masking and vaccine verification requirements. Some restaurants will keep requiring diners to prove their vaccination status and wear masks to dine indoors, even once the mandates expire.