‘No longer a matter of if, but when’: Inslee says health leaders discussing when to lift indoor mask mandate

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Governor Jay Inslee said Washington will lift its indoor mask mandate “soon,” but did not provide a specific timeline.

Inslee plans to announce more changes to the current indoor masking guidance by next week. He did announce the state’s outdoor masking requirements will end on February 18.

Inslee said it is not a decision of “if” the state will lift the mandate, but “when” and added that the decision will be made by health leaders dependent on data.

“Omicron has characteristics that will allow us to lift mitigation measures with the weeks to come rather than months,” Inslee said.

COVID hospitalizations are declining across the state, so the pause on elective surgeries will end on February 17. Inslee noted that the state projects to see low COVID numbers across the state in the first week of March.

“This wave has gone up like a rocket and will come down like a rock,” he said.

The governor now shares the same views with Washington’s State Superintendent. Chris Reykdal wants families to make the choice of whether or not to send their kids to school in masks. He says vaccinations and natural immunity are in the place to make this transition in schools across the state.

“I would make them mask optional and let families make that decision at this point,” said Reykdal.

Inslee said when he does lift the mandate, schools will be included. He plans to closely monitor data and speak with public health officials before next week. He also wants to put power back in the hands of local health departments as restrictions start to lift.

RELATED: ‘Time to make the change’: WA Superintendent of Public Instruction supports making masks optional in schools