UPDATE: Governor announces most statewide mask mandates will end March 21

2:06 PM: Happening now in Olympia – click into the livestream here or above – Governor Jay Inslee is announcing “the latest COVID-19 trends and plans for transitioning to the next phase of Washington state’s COVID-19 response.” He’s being joined by state school superintendent Chris Reykdal and state health secretary Dr. Umair Shah. We’ll update as it goes.

He opened by hailing a “significant decline” in COVID cases though he said the case and hospitalization rates are still “high” and still need to be “knocked down.” He says modeling projects that the “knocking down” to a safe point is likely to happen by March 21st. “Considering these projections,” he said, the state mask mandate for schools and public indoor spaces will be removed on that date. There will be exceptions, he noted, such as health-care facilities and transit (the latter, he said, is federally required). He thanks people statewide for what they’ve done on this “long, long journey” but cautions it would not be safe to “do this today” – “We need to finish this job and do what’s scientifically safe.”

2:18 PM: He says people will have the right to continue choosing to wear masks if they want to “and we will protect that right.” Next, Dr. Shah speaks, saying he is “hopeful for where this pandemic is going,” nationwide as well as in our state. He reiterates the “strong protection” provided by vaccines. He adds, “Living with COVID means we don’t know how long it’s going to be around.” He also points out that the statewide mandate end will not rule out local health jurisdictions, businesses, etc. keeping their. own rules in place. Overall, this is an “incredibly important milestone,” he concludes.

2:25 PM: Now state superintendent Reykdal is speaking. He echoes what the previous speakers have said, thanking everyone for what they’ve done to stay safe. Then back to the governor, who says he knows some may think the mandate should end sooner – “We lost a thousand people in January to this disease, and when we make decisions, we should have a recognition of how dangerous and deadly this is … and we’re not yet where we need to be as a state to be safe.”

2:30 PM: On to reporter Q&A. Will the emergency order be lifted March 21 too? No, says the governor – for one, it needs to stay in place for the state to be eligible for federal funds, plus it confers protections of various kinds, such as allowing testing in schools. “There’s no dedicated end date to the emergency order.” … In response to another question, Dr. Shah reiterates, “March 21st is such an important milestone, but it does not mean the pandemic ends then.”

2:56 PM: The Q&A continues. One question was about the declining case rate; what’s on the state dashboard is most current, was the reply, showing a peak of 1,740 cases per 100,000 people over 7 days in mid-January, and then by early February that was down to 645 cases per 100,000 people over 7 days.

3:10 PM: The briefing has concluded. The video window above should show the recording soon. When the governor’s office issues a written version of today’s announcements, we’ll link it here. We also have a followup out for clarification with Seattle Public Schools regarding what the end of the statewide mandate would mean in local schools.

3:56 PM: Here’s what the governor’s office has since posted. Key point:

Businesses and local governments can still choose to implement vaccination or face mask requirements for workers or customers, and school districts can still choose to have students and teachers wear masks. Federal law still requires face masks in certain settings such as public transportation and school buses.

68 Replies to "UPDATE: Governor announces most statewide mask mandates will end March 21"

  • masky February 17, 2022 (2:55 pm)

    Is the mask requirement a Washington state mandate or King County or Seattle requirement? In other words, is there a chance that Seattle holds out longer. No political statement here – just trying to understand how this works. Also, does this compel SPS in any way or can they mandate masks irrespective of the statewide mask requirement being lifted?

    • WSB February 17, 2022 (2:58 pm)

      I already have that question out to SPS.

    • Mark B February 17, 2022 (3:06 pm)

      Yes, I heard mention in there that and local governments and private businesses could continue with mask requirements.

    • High Point February 17, 2022 (3:10 pm)

      If SPS stops requiring masks there will be a teacher walk out, at the very least. But this is kind of a moot point because there’s no way that SPS would remove the mask requirement before the end of the year. That’s a non-starter.

      • flimflam February 17, 2022 (5:47 pm)

        I’m sure the teachers wouldn’t do something like that when children’s education is at stake.

        • High Point February 17, 2022 (6:38 pm)

          If that’s the logic we are using then teachers should be required to teach child even if the building is on fire.

      • JJ February 17, 2022 (6:51 pm)

        Teacher here! Why would we walk out? We’ve been showing up for Seattle’s children since the pandemic started.

        • JJ February 18, 2022 (9:31 am)

          Teacher, Can you pick a different screen name? I’ve already had to change mine once because it was used by someone else. JJ

  • River February 17, 2022 (3:39 pm)

    Mask burning party at Alki!

    • SR February 17, 2022 (4:51 pm)

      Name the date and time – I’ll be there! 

    • Lucy February 17, 2022 (6:44 pm)

      N95 and surgical masks are made of material that, when burned, is quite toxic.  And I don’t want that in my air or in Puget Sound.  

      • Scott February 18, 2022 (10:44 am)

        Then why are we wearing them and breathing it in? 

        • ARPigeonPoint February 19, 2022 (10:23 am)

          …Because your breath isn’t fire? 

          • Jethro Marx February 19, 2022 (4:22 pm)

            Coincidentally, an awesome way to alert a youngster to their bad breath: “Br ur breath is like, so not fire.”

    • Kersti Muul February 18, 2022 (2:34 pm)

      You should probably save them for the next one 😝

  • Brian February 17, 2022 (3:41 pm)

    March 21 is an interesting date to pick since that’s right around when BA.2 cases should be overwhelming us and will presumably give Inslee all the cover he needs to extend the mandate without having to actually do anything of substance in the meantime. 

    • Um, No! February 17, 2022 (3:50 pm)

      But we should be fine because we’ll all have masks on until then……..? :)

    • Mark B February 17, 2022 (4:02 pm)

      Brian, the DOH (via the projected hospitalization curve) disagrees with your theory.

    • Westwood February 17, 2022 (4:08 pm)

      “when BA.2 should be overwhelming us”. I’ll take Things That Will Never Happen for $400, Alex. 

    • Derek February 17, 2022 (4:18 pm)

      Why does everyone think everything is a conspiracy? 

      • Mark P February 17, 2022 (4:56 pm)

        There are a lot of insecure people out there. It’s truly a shame. I would advise against reading the Seattle Times comments on the article of this announcement. Never would have guessed I share a city with so many people who everything with the state government is a cover up, a scam, a power grab, etc.

      • GoodSpaceGal February 17, 2022 (5:33 pm)

        Questioning authority is an essential component of Democracy, especially in a Constitutional Republic. 

        • wscommuter February 17, 2022 (8:19 pm)

          Yes.  But there’s a difference between asking critical questions and spreading moronic conspiracies.  It’s called critical reasoning.  

          • Tar N Feather February 17, 2022 (10:12 pm)

            Lol so everyone was all tinfoil hat until Snowden came forth and provided the evidence?

      • Brian February 17, 2022 (6:09 pm)

        It’s not a conspiracy it’s observable data and reality my man. 

        • Westwood February 17, 2022 (6:48 pm)

          All the observable data out of S. Africa and Europe disagrees with you. 

      • Frog February 17, 2022 (8:25 pm)

        Who told you to say that?

      • Hopeful February 18, 2022 (7:01 pm)

        Derek, you clearly are privileged enough to be able to so easily forget about what our government has done to Native Americans, African Americans, immigrants,  poor people, American citizens of Japanese descent.  But i’m sure you feel those were all Republicans and not Democrats.  Healthy skepticism is always best;  In 1986 Ronald Reagan said ‘the nine most terrifying words in the english language are: “I’m from the government and I’m here to help”‘. 

  • ST February 17, 2022 (4:00 pm)

    Well, as to mask mandates and other protocols in public schools, like SPS, these are terms and conditions of employment that presumably would have to be negotiated.   In the last 2 years, the kids have been through remote school, hybrid schools, have been asked to wear masks all day, have been asked to get vaccinated and so on.  My young kids have asked why they can’t take the masks off now that they’re vaccinated and, yes, we have explained why not.  But, if the numbers keep going down and with so many people fully vaxxed and boosted, maybe it’s time to take off the masks and let kids have a sense of normalcy.  

    • Sam February 17, 2022 (7:43 pm)

      I paid my taxes. That was my negotiation

      • zark00 February 18, 2022 (9:31 am)

        congrats on doing the absolute bare minimum, then bragging about it.

  • Seattlite February 17, 2022 (4:13 pm)

    Brian…A very truthful comment.

  • Rara February 17, 2022 (4:16 pm)

    I know of a few places in the state where people don’t wear masks or look at vaccination cards. You’d be surprised. Anyway, can’t wait for the burning mask party. 

    • Dburger February 18, 2022 (2:06 am)

      Why do you feel the need to pollute the environment with highly toxic chemicals that are the byproduct of burning most masks? That’s not very thoughtful at all. You can do better as a human being. And you should.

  • Case February 17, 2022 (4:28 pm)

    I’ll keep mine on I think. I just hope everyone respects the choices of others, makes healthy choices and all conversations can remain respectful 

  • CarDriver February 17, 2022 (4:46 pm)

    Derek. Because a conspiracy is an easy excuse to ignore real experts in the real world. 

  • Remote worker February 17, 2022 (5:35 pm)

    One hour after Gov. Inslee’s announcement, my company sent an email saying the office is reopening on a hybrid schedule. 

  • Mj February 17, 2022 (5:49 pm)

    California lifted it’s mandate for fully vaccinated people today!  

    And regarding the SPS’s a reasoned option is to lift the mandate for vaccinated teachers, staff AND students.

    • Pessoa February 17, 2022 (8:10 pm)

      Unfortunately,  not in Los Angeles.  

  • onion February 17, 2022 (6:15 pm)

    There is official policy and personal choice. Masks are primarily used to protect others from our exhalations, and secondarily to protect us from others exhalations. I and others may choose to protect ourselves even if others choose not to protect themselves. At some point we would have to cross that threshold. That moment is coming.

    • James February 18, 2022 (8:19 am)

      2 years into this and every study has shown that sick people wearing cloth or paper surgical masks have no effect on spread. The only masks that showed any efficacy was the non-sick individual indoors in close quarters wearing a properly fitted, non-counterfeit N95, was a little bit less likely to contract the virus.Telling sick people it was ok to go work with their loose fitting piece of cloth likely exacerbated the spread. What a clown show the public health messaging has been this whole time.

  • Joan February 17, 2022 (6:18 pm)

    As long as fully vaccinated folks are still getting breakthrough infections, I think I’ll keep my masks. I don’t fancy getting sick, even if mild.

    • Just wondering February 17, 2022 (7:05 pm)

      I agree Joan.  I will continue to wear a mask because I have no idea if others have been vaccinated.  But then I also wear a seatbelt and stop at stop signs!

    • Buddy February 17, 2022 (7:06 pm)

      Right on the money! I have heard of people who still get Covid even thou they have had all 3 shots!  Teachers probably will choose to continue to Wear a mask even though the students are not required., that my educated guess. 

      • Derek February 17, 2022 (8:40 pm)

        Vaccines never prevented Covid, they break down the virus and fight it. Why are you spreading misinformation? 

        • Brian February 18, 2022 (9:00 am)

          This is literally what Walensky said last summer so is the CDC also spreading misinfo?

        • zark00 February 18, 2022 (9:41 am)

          The vaccine itself just prompts your own body to create antibodies – proteins that fight disease.  The vaccine is not ‘breaking down’ anything or fighting anything. It’s just helping your own body make effective antibodies for this particular disease – without actually having to get the disease – because that might kill you. The vaccine isn’t in your system for very long, but the antibodies stick around a long time.  The smallpox vaccine, for example, was actually the less dangerous cow pox. A cow pox infection would prompt your body to create antibodies that were also effective in fighting smallpox. 

  • salmon February 17, 2022 (7:11 pm)

    Think it might be good to keep our masks stored in a drawer for potential future use, and out of the landfills and fire pits.

    The amount of ppe related environmental pollution that has occurred durring this pandemic, is probablly staggering. How will we clean up the mess?

  • CAM February 17, 2022 (8:49 pm)

    I have a strong suspicion that the majority of people talking about throwing masks away and wanting to get rid of them or vaccine requirements are people who have had the privilege of fully remote work for the last two years. My coworkers and I have been scrambling for months to cover staff shortages due to covid and the only reason more aren’t out sick is because the people we interact with are required to be masked. So keep in mind during your celebratory bonfires that some of your neighbors are freaking exhausted and will likely continue to be for a while and maybe look around. 

    • Adam February 17, 2022 (10:09 pm)

      Been working since day one. In fact, couldn’t stop working due to nature of my work. In fact, working on Covid. Still glad to be in every day, helped me retain my sanity. I know it’s easy to just group ppl and opine rather than deal with nuance, but I’m part of the group you’re part of, the ones who didn’t get to work remote for two years, and I’m glad for it. Much like the kids who have been robbed of two years of proper education, those forced to work from home for two years will regret it. I am not just vaxxed or boosted, but have a second booster. I believe in science and properly analyzed data, I believe this can be a terrible disease for some. But for those who claim to “follow the science”, kinda odd that the day they stop is when they’re told it’s ok to open. Experts stopped being experts for some ppl because they said to get a safe vax some claimed would do irreparable harm. For the other side, experts stopped being experts when they proclaimed the end of the pandemic was near, causing irreparable harm. So it’s clear. We choose our experts based off who tells us what we wanna hear and become paranoid alarmists when we hear dissension. I just wish we could be honest with ourselves. We mostly can’t make rational decisions based off sound logic and join up with teams to do the thinking for us. 

      • CAM February 18, 2022 (11:00 am)

        You seem to be inferring a lot about what I meant there without me having said anything about it. But thanks for calling me irrational. 

    • wseakell February 18, 2022 (2:47 pm)

      Cam, I must disagree with your stance that most people who are for ending mask and vaccine mandates are working remote. I find the exact opposite. I work in a field where most people are out in the world working, including me. I’m for ending the mask mandates yesterday, especially in schools, and am for ending the vaccine mandates now that King Co is up to 88% vaxxed. Many of the field people I work with are very against the mask mandate and are the ones who’ve been out keeping commercial building systems up and running this whole pandemic. I actually find the opposite is true, that my friends who are more liberal and working remote are the most fearful of COVID and are pro-masking and vax mandates, with no end in sight. The NY Times newsletter a couple of weeks back had an interesting take on vaccine skepticism by Democrats, saying, “The second form of vaccine skepticism is among Democrats – although many would recoil at any suggestion that they are vaccine skeptics. But many are skeptical that the vaccines protect them.”
      With the vast majority of at-risk individuals vaccinated, we should be free to remove the masks in most instances right now. In schools, many states and other countries have been very successful with their children unmasked. I don’t understand why many people, mostly Democrats (which I used to be proud to be, but have since crossed party lines because of the crazy, dangerous progressive ideology, and endless COVID fear), do not understand that data. With the protections of the vaccine, we can start treating this like an endemic and remove the masks and lift most mandates right now. For those that say endless masking does not harm our children, you are horribly wrong. Many are falling behind in speech and language development, socialization, and overall learning and unfortunately this hits underprivileged children the worst. If a teacher finds they are mad about the mandates ending and they personally need additional protection, having a vaccine and wearing a N-95 mask would provide them plenty of protection from a class of unmasked, happy kids. Please don’t march or strike against this – our children are ready to get back to seeing each other’s faces and understanding what emotion is going on by reading facial expressions, and being able to hear and see what each other are saying.

      • CAM February 19, 2022 (1:30 am)

        These may be points that you should address to a person working inside a school. 

  • Peter February 17, 2022 (10:53 pm)

    I will keep wearing masks, probably forever. Too many anti-vax idiots out there to be safe. I hate wearing masks, but I will do what is necessary to protect myself from the anti-vax idiots.

    • Dburger February 18, 2022 (2:09 am)

      The masks don’t protect you. They help reduce your chances of spreading it through exhaling aerosolized droplets containing the virus, IF you’re infected. It won’t prevent you from catching it. Just be sure you’re not wearing it unnecessarily, for the wrong reasons. 

      • Brian February 19, 2022 (10:02 am)

        Depends on the mask. If you’re wearing a properly fitted n95 and glasses/goggles (or a respirator) you’re basically bulletproof. 

    • rme February 18, 2022 (6:25 am)

      I respect your decision to continue wearing a mask, but at least here in West Seattle, the numbers don’t support the idea that there are “too many anti-vax idiots out there to be safe.” Our area has done a remarkable job with vaccination. 

    • 935 February 18, 2022 (6:49 am)

      Hey Peter! You should totally be allowed to wear your mask free and clear of any assumptions, looks, sneers, snickers or judgements.Just as I should be allowed to go without one with the same caveats.

    • MA February 18, 2022 (7:57 am)

      Really? Forever? So for the rest of your life you will have a mask? I guess that’s your call but jeez, at some point living means accepting there are risks in life. You ride a bike you could get hit, you get in a car you could get in an accident. New diseases always present themselves, maybe you get sick maybe you don’t. I personally can’t imagine being afraid of living my life in a normal fashion even if it means there is a chance I get sick. Life is about living, not surviving.

      • Brian February 18, 2022 (9:01 am)

        Last time I checked bike and car accidents aren’t aerosolized and contagious. 

      • zark00 February 18, 2022 (9:49 am)

        @ MA – Do you wear a seatbelt?  Why? At some point living means accepting there are risks in life. 

      • Elton February 18, 2022 (10:51 am)

        From my POV: I will not wear a mask every single day forever (I hope) but I will likely forever wear masks on airplanes and when in crowded spaces during flu season. It’s been really nice not having any bad colds these past couple of winters.

      • Hopeful February 18, 2022 (1:21 pm)

        MA, well stated, there is too much life to live!  We all take calculated risks, nothing is for sure. Calling people ‘idiots’ is much of the problem, in a region where we are supposedly so enlightened and tolerant of different views and choices, the pandemic has shown we are just like all the people Progressives like to mock.   I would much rather have a conversation with someone I disagree with than with someone where we agree about everything.  

  • PNW Teacher February 17, 2022 (11:35 pm)

    Thankfully less teacher bashing on this post (compared to yesterday’s).  Many teachers have been able to continue working as well due to masking, despite teacher/sub shortage. Having students sit in table groups should be first step before masking goes away.  Eliminating the 3 feet distancing as well. And honestly, having  a masking culture to show compassion for the health of others, should continue. 

    • K February 18, 2022 (8:54 am)

      I’m pro-vaccine and pro-masking while it made sense, but we shouldn’t mask forever.  Bodies do need to be challenged from time to time to have a healthy immune system.   Nobody likes to get sick, but living in a sterile environment can do more harm than you think.  The immune system is in place for a reason, and if you give it nothing to do, it will find other ways to keep itself busy – like autoimmune disorders and allergies.   Keep up with your vaccinations and take the masks off if you want to.  

  • anonyme February 18, 2022 (6:14 am)

    I masked on the bus even before the pandemic.  Most people would be horrified if they knew the amount of viral and bacterial pathogens on bus surfaces, including TB.  Last summer I picked up a disgusting skin disease just from riding the bus once a week; there was no other possible source.  Metro’s claims of regular sanitizing during Covid are completely false, and mask mandates are not enforced.  I guess it’s good that masking will still be required on buses due to federal mandate, but I’m not sure it makes much difference with the lack of either cleanliness or enforcement.

  • WS Taxpayer February 18, 2022 (11:21 am)

    No Bashing necessary, many have worked, most have survived, many have succumbed and everyone’s opinions are different.  The data collected about the virus has advanced to where we should cede the decision making on individual risk assessment back to the people.  I would ask for grace whether YOUR decision is to mask indefinitely or choose not to.   

    • Hopeful February 18, 2022 (1:12 pm)

      WS Taxpayer; well stated!

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