By Jen Dev, Public Health – Seattle & King County
Starting Saturday, March 12, King County will stop requiring masks in many indoor public spaces. Individuals will now be able to make their own choices as to whether they want to continue wearing masks, and businesses may decide whether they want to require employees and customers to wear masks.
In practice, what does this mean for you?
It’s a good sign. Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have fallen and according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, the spread of the virus in the community is now low in King County. Our high vaccination rates are providing important protection against severe COVID-19. We will continue working towards getting as many people boosted as possible to further protect us.
It doesn’t mean the pandemic is over. There may be future surges or new variants that will lead us to reassess the need for additional masking recommendations and other measures to protect our community.
Certain people may still want to wear masks. COVID-19 is still circulating and some risk remains, especially for vulnerable people. For this reason, the use of high-quality, well-fitting masks still makes sense for certain people, particularly in crowded indoor settings with poor ventilation. It is reasonable to continue to wear a mask in indoor public spaces if you are immunocompromised or at increased risk for severe disease, unvaccinated, or are in contact with someone at high risk.
Some people may choose to wear a mask out of consideration for people who may be at high risk in public settings, or if they want to further reduce their own risk for any reason.
And with COVID-19 still circulating, anyone who wants to further reduce their risk for any reason may choose to continue to mask in indoor public spaces.
It’s a good idea to still keep that mask handy. Masks are still required on public transit, in healthcare settings, long-term care settings and correctional facilities. So whether you’re taking the bus to work, visiting grandma at her nursing home or going to the doctor, you’ll still want to bring along a high-quality mask.
Businesses can choose to require masks. While King County no longer requires masks, individual businesses can implement their own requirements for mask wearing and vaccine verification. Keep an eye out for posters in shop windows that explain what the rules are in that business and be respectful of their requirements. Many businesses are trying to be sensitive to the needs of both their customers and employees and will appreciate everyone’s patience and cooperation during this period.
You can still choose to wear a mask. If you don’t feel ready to take that mask off yet, that’s perfectly understandable and reasonable. COVID-19 has been part of our lives for two years and there are important reasons why masking still makes sense for some people.
Keep taking steps to protect yourself and the community. Get a booster shot when you become eligible, vaccinate yourself and your family, wear masks where required and gather in places with good ventilation. These measures will help continue lowering the spread of coronavirus and keep us safer.
The bottom line: familiarize yourself with where masks are still required, respect the rules that businesses set, and make the decisions you feel are best for you and your family.
For more information and infographics in multiple languages, please visit our masking guidance page.
Originally published March 12, 2022.