Don’t Throw Away Your Masks

Situations where masks are still required (and other times to consider one)

Washington recently lifted mask requirements for most indoor settings. After roughly two years of wearing masks, it’s a transition that will take us some time to adjust to. We recognize the mixed feelings this shift may bring.

While it’s a bonus to see more smiling faces, it’s not a time to let down our guard. COVID-19 is still here, and masks can be an important tool to slow the spread — especially in certain scenarios. So, what exactly are those scenarios? We’re covering the basics below.

What’s the official guidance?

Masks are no longer required by the state in many indoor public spaces, including:

  • Schools, childcare facilities, and libraries
  • Restaurants and bars
  • Houses of worship
  • Gyms, recreation centers, and indoor athletic facilities
  • Grocery stores, businesses, and retail establishments

When are masks still required?

There’s an important distinction with the list above. Even though the state requirement has been lifted, private businesses, local health jurisdictions and some schools still have the right to require masks. That’s why some places across Washington are keeping mask requirements for now.

It’s very important (and required!) to follow the rules of the space you are in. Look online or call ahead to confirm an establishment’s policy if you have questions. We also recommend keeping a few masks handy (in your car, bag, and so on) to be safe.

And remember, there are still places where masks are required for people over the age of five. These include:

  • Healthcare and medical facilities, including hospitals, outpatient facilities, dental facilities and pharmacies
  • Long-term care settings
  • Correctional facilities
  • Public transit, taxis and rideshare vehicles like Uber and Lyft
  • Airplanes and airports (The U.S. Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, is currently requiring masks through April 18; this may get extended)

Why was this decision made when COVID-19 is still here?

Decreasing rates of infection and hospitalizations, and high vaccination rates, have allowed us to move into a new recovery phase of the pandemic.

The decision to lift most mask requirements was based on the best science and research available, as well as our experience and preparation to continue combatting COVID-19.

However, we recognize masks are still an important tool to slow the spread of COVID-19. Case numbers may increase without mask requirements. That’s why DOH still recommends masks.

It’s also why we recommend people follow other precautions to protect themselves and others. The most important tool for doing that is vaccination. This is a good time to get up to date with COVID-19 vaccines, including booster and additional doses. It’s also a good idea to have a few COVID-19 tests on hand and to familiarize yourself with testing recommendations so you’re prepared in case of an exposure; or if you’re feeling symptomatic. Testing is also a good idea for added peace of mind before visiting with others or attending events (especially if you anticipate people will be maskless).

Are there other times I should consider masking?

Remember: any time you want to or feel more comfortable wearing a mask, you should do so.

For instance, people may want to continue wearing masks if they are immunocompromised or are around people who are immunocompromised. The same is true for people who are not up to date on their vaccines or are around people who are not.

It’s also important to remember that young children in our communities (those under the age of five) can’t get vaccinated yet. Respect their health and consider wearing a mask when you’re around them. Likewise, if you’re a parent of an unvaccinated child, you can ask visitors or other people around your child to wear a mask.

I’ve heard about people getting criticized by others for continuing to wear a mask. How should we handle “mask-shaming” in public places?”

We hope that people will respect the decisions of their fellow community members.

  • If someone close to you, like a family member or friend, is questioning your decision, feel free to share your point of view — and remind them that this is a personal decision for everyone.
  • If your child is feeling targeted or bullied in their classroom, it’s best to raise your concerns with the school so they can take appropriate action.
  • If you feel like you’re in a more hostile situation, the best course of action is generally to avoid engaging at all. Walk away if you can. If the situation escalates and you feel in danger, call 9–1–1.

Masks continue to be an important tool for protecting ourselves and others. Please be kind and respect people’s decision to wear a mask. Find out more about masking at doh.wa.gov/masks.

More Information

This blog is accurate as of the date of posting. Information changes rapidly, so check the state’s COVID-19 website for the most up-to-date info at coronavirus.wa.gov. You can also sign up to be notified whenever we post new articles.

The COVID-19 vaccine is now available to everyone 5 and older. For more information about the vaccine, visit CovidVaccineWA.org and use the vaccine locator tool to find an appointment. The COVID-19 vaccine is provided at no cost to you.

WA Notify can alert you if you’ve been near another user who tested positive for COVID-19. Add WA Notify to your phone today: WANotify.org

Find answers to your questions or concerns about COVID-19 in Washington state at our website. You can also contact the Department of Health call center at 1–800–525–0127 and press # from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday, and 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday — Sunday and observed state holidays. Language assistance is available.

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Washington State Department of Health

Washington State Department of Health

Protecting and improving the health of people in Washington State.