4 News Now Q&A: Now that Washington has fully reopened, can I ditch the mask for good?

Your Questions Answered

Q: Now that Washington has fully reopened, can I ditch the mask for good? 

A: To mask or not to mask is an increasingly confusing question, especially as Washington enters a new stage in the pandemic. But unlike many COVID restrictions in the state, masking guidelines are not going away.

Face masks are still required in health care settings like hospitals, long-term care facilities and doctor’s offices. They are also still required in schools and on public transportation.

Businesses still have the right to require customers to to wear masks, and they can ask for proof of vaccination if they choose. Local officials also have the right to set their own mask requirements in response to the level of virus transmission in the community.

Adding to the confusion about who should wear a mask is conflicting advice from the experts. Last week, the World Health Organization called for all vaccinated people to continue to wear masks in light of sky-rocketing cases of the Delta variant around the world.

The CDC, on the other hand, has not followed suit. The agency is sticking by its guidance, recommending fully vaccinated people can ditch the masks in outdoor and indoor settings. Unvaccinated people are supposed to continue wearing their masks and social distancing.

“The context in which the W.H.O. is making the recommendations is very different than us here in the United States where we’re really lucky to have three very effective vaccines and about two-thirds of the adult population now fully vaccinated,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said. “However, we have always said that this virus is an opportunist and in areas where we still have rates of low vaccination, that is where the virus is likely to take hold. We are still seeing an uptick in cases in areas of low vaccination and in that situation, we are suggesting that policies be made at the local level. Those masking policies are really intended to protect the unvaccinated — the vaccinated, we believe, are safe.”

The CDC said until the science proves otherwise, its current guidance will remain in place.

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