Gov. Inslee issues indoor mask mandate, required vaccinations for school workers

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Governor Jay Inslee announced a new indoor mask mandate that will go into effect across Washington on Monday. 

The mandate affects everyone, whether or not they are vaccinated. Vaccinated people previously did not have to wear masks in indoor spaces. 

The expansion comes as the state recently saw a record number of COVID hospitalizations previously set in December. 

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Every county in Washington currently falls within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s definition of “substantial or high transmission.” Additionally, each of the state’s 35 local health officers recently recommended all people, vaccinated or unvaccinated, wear masks indoors. 

There will be limited exceptions where face coverings will not be required under the new mandate. This includes office spaces not easily accessible to the public where people are vaccinated, and when working alone indoors or in a vehicle with no public face-to-face interaction. 

Small, private indoor gatherings where all attendees are vaccinated are also exempt. 

Mandatory vaccinations for school workers

The governor also issued a vaccine requirement for people working in schools. 

READ: Teacher vaccine mandate ‘will undoubtedly save lives’

This applies to all K-12 educators, school staff, coaches, bus drivers, volunteers and other people working in school facilities. It also impacts employees in Washington’s higher education institutions, as well as most childcare and early learning providers who serve children from multiple households. 

This requirement does not impact students. 

People working in school settings will be expected to be fully vaccinated by October 18 as a condition of employment. There will not be an option for employees to choose frequent COVID testing over vaccination. 

There are exemptions which employees may apply for, including legitimate medical reasons and sincerely held religious beliefs. 

The governor said people who refuse to get vaccinated will be subject to dismissal. 

READ: Washington’s top health officers encourage masks in indoor public spaces