September 8, 2021

Mask up and get vaccinated: Statewide mandates now in effect

On Aug. 18. Governor Inslee announced one of the most rigorous measures in the nation in response to soaring COVID-19 hospitalizations in Washington State.

Whether you’re vaccinated or not, masks are back across the state as of Aug. 23. And all state public, private or charter school employees will need to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 to be employed.

About the new mask mandate

  • Everyone 5 years and older is now required to wear a face covering in most indoor public spaces—regardless of vaccination status. That includes restaurants, grocery stores, malls and public-facing offices.
  • While the state mandate strongly recommends, but does not require, masks at crowded outdoor settings, you’ll need to mask up in Pierce County. Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department Director Dr. Anthony Chen issued a countywide health order effective Sept. 7 that everyone in Pierce County 5 years and older is required to wear a face mask at all outdoor events with 500 or more people, regardless of vaccination status. The Health Department also recommends wearing a mask in any crowded outdoor public setting where physical distancing isn’t possible (fairs, farmers’ markets, festivals, etc.)
  • There are exemptions. Masks are not required for:
    • Non-public spaces, such as businesses, offices and other locations of employment that limit public access.
    • Individuals who work alone indoors and do not interact with the public.
    • Small, private indoor gatherings where everyone is vaccinated.

Masks are still required for unvaccinated workers on the job, whether the business is public-facing or not. Masks are also required for all individuals in K-12 settings, public transportation and congregate living areas like hospitals and jails.

“Masking will reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19 for everyone, including customers, workers and children under 12 who cannot get vaccinated,” Dr. Chen said in a statement. “I strongly urge everyone in Pierce County to follow this directive and to get vaccinated. We must use all the tools we have to keep our community safe.”

Employers should continue to follow the latest COVID-19 guidance and requirements from the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries to ensure worker safety. The L&I Guidelines and requirements guidelines were updated Aug. 23.

About the expanded vaccine mandate

  • All K-12 public, private and charter school educators, staff, volunteers and others working in school facilities must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 to be employed.
  • The mandate includes higher-education staff, educators, faculty and contractors, as well as certified, licensed and contracted early learning and child-care providers.
  • The order expands Gov. Inslee’s previous vaccine mandate that requires most state employees and contractors and health care employees be fully vaccinated by the October deadline.
  • The CDC defines “fully vaccinated” as two weeks after the final dose. Employees must receive their second dose (or single Johnson & Johnson dose) by Oct. 4.
  • Individuals may apply for medical and religious exemptions, but will otherwise be subject to dismissal if they aren’t fully vaccinated.

Vaccinations are best defense against COVID-19

“More than 95 percent of the COVID hospitalizations we see today are among the unvaccinated,” Inslee said during his Aug. 18 announcement. “And it is heart-rending for us to see losing our neighbors, our co-workers, our students to a preventable disease.”

COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and readily available for everyone 12 and older. And as of Aug. 23, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is fully approved for individuals 16 and older by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA).

Find a vaccination location near you at


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