WA indoor mask mandate to lift March 12 in light of CDC guidance

Mask requirements in Oregon and California will also be relaxed that day.

Statues under a bus shelter wearing masks. A public sculpture in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood

Figures in Richard Beyer’s ‘Waiting for the Interurban’ wear face masks in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, April 26, 2020. (Matt M. McKnight/Crosscut)

Washington residents will now be able to stop wearing masks in most indoor settings on March 12, nine days earlier than officials previously announced.

On Monday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said he is moving up the date because of last week’s updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those new CDC recommendations, released Friday, Feb. 25, said most Americans live in counties where they can go without masks while indoors.

Masks will still be required in health care settings and on public transit, as well as in businesses that choose to require them. But, starting March 12, Washington state will no longer require people to wear masks in K-12 schools, grocery stores, retail shops, bars, restaurants and most other indoor spaces. 

The state will also stop requiring masks to be worn on school buses on that date, a change that matches the updated federal guidance, Inslee’s office said.

“While this represents another step forward for Washingtonians, we must still be mindful that many within our communities remain vulnerable,” Inslee said in a written statement Monday. “Many businesses and families will continue choosing to wear masks, because we’ve learned how effective they are at keeping one another safe.” 

Oregon will also lift its indoor masking requirements on March 12. California has taken a more phased approach, but similarly will lift most of its remaining masking requirements by March 12. Mike Faulk, a spokesperson for Inslee’s office, said officials from the three states consulted with one another and their public health leaders over the weekend before deciding on the March 12 date.

Inslee previously had set March 21 as the date for lifting the state’s indoor masking requirement, citing high hospitalization rates in February.

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About the Authors & Contributors

Melissa Santos

Melissa Santos

Melissa Santos is formerly a Crosscut staff reporter who covered state politics and the Legislature.