By Bill Stevenson
Whitman County Gazette 

State mandate requires masks to be worn indoors

Few exceptions to wearing face masks


August 26, 2021

OLYMPIA — Five-year-olds are required to wear face masks inside buildings open to the public, along with everyone older than them starting Aug. 23.

Washington State Secretary of Health Umair A. Shah amended Order 20-03 on Aug. 18 to require masks inside public-accessed buildings, including grocery stores, gyms, retail stores, and community centers.

The mask mandate is regardless of vaccination status.

Outside masks are “strongly recommended” for settings such as sporting events, fairs, and concerts, when physical distancing isn’t possible, according to the state Department of Health.

“The updated order goes into effect on Monday, Aug. 23,” stated a Department of Health spokesperson.

Thirty-five local health officers in the state recommended the mask mandate. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) changed its guidelines to require mask use indoors regardless of vaccination status.

“While vaccines are the pathway out of this pandemic, wearing a mask is necessary to stem the current increase in COVID-19 cases, driven by the Delta variant,” said Shah.

The Department of Health states that reinstating mask requirements is necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The state is requiring vaccinations for school teachers and medical staff.

“(In the last six months), 94.5% of COVID-19 cases who were hospitalized were not fully vaccinated,” stated the spokesperson.

The state lists some exceptions to wearing a mask, including:

• Children under age five years of age

• People with a medical or mental health condition or disability preventing them from wearing a mask

• Fully vaccinated workers who are working alone or in an area not accessible to the public

• Athletes who play indoor sports and actively engaged in competition or practice (masks are still required on sidelines and in team meetings)

• Small indoor private gatherings when everyone is vaccinated

• Children under 2 years of age should not wear a face covering due to the risk of suffocation

Masks should be worn properly, fitting snugly around both mouth and nose. There shouldn’t be holes or tears, and cloth masks need to be washed regularly.

“I appreciate the efforts of those who are already regularly wearing face coverings in public and urge others to join us in taking this critical step to control the virus. Each of us has a part to play to stop the spread of this disease in our communities,” said Shah.

Author Bio

Bill Stevenson, Editor

Bill Stevenson is the editor of the Whitman County Gazette, Colfax Daily Bulletin and Franklin Connection. He has nearly 30 years of journalism experience covering news in Eastern Washington.

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 5093974333
Twitter: @BillSte71925953
Contact Bill Stevenson


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