June 30, 2021
For Immediate Release
Thomas Locke, MD, MPH, Jefferson County Health Officer
Rescinding of Jefferson County Health Officer Directive Requiring Masking in all Publicly Accessible Indoor Spaces
The health officer directive requiring indoor masking of all Jefferson County residents that has been in effect since May 26, 2021 has been rescinded. Much has changed over the past year. 453,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Washington State and 5,956 residents have died of this infection. In Jefferson County, 449 cases have been reported and four residents have lost their lives. Highly effective vaccines have been deployed with 64% of Jefferson County residents now fully vaccinated, the second highest level in the state. Despite abundant supplies of vaccine, immunization rates have slowed significantly and COVID transmission continues, now almost exclusively confined to those who are unvaccinated or are ineligible for the vaccine due to age.
The COVID-19 Pandemic that began in early 2020 will not end until a level of population immunity is reached sufficient to prevent outbreaks and widespread transmission. Nonetheless, we have made very significant progress and fully vaccinated individuals can now safely resume most aspects of their pre-pandemic lives. Most statewide COVID-related restrictions will end on June 30, 2021. Some masking requirements will continue and are contained in three orders—one from the Washington State Secretary of Health, another from the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, and the third from the Federal government’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC). These orders are comprehensive and make a county-specific order no longer necessary. The full text of each order can be found at the links below.
As a general summary, universal masking will continue to be required on all public transportation, in health care settings, schools, congregate living facilities (like homeless shelters and assisted living facilities), and all correctional facilities (jails and prisons). People who are fully vaccinated against COVID infection are no longer required to wear masks in other settings, indoors or outdoors. People who have chosen not to be vaccinated are still required to wear well-fitting masks in indoor spaces, both publicly accessible and places of employment. Employers are required to determine the vaccination status of their employees and assure that unvaccinated employees maintain necessary indoor masking and distancing precautions.
Businesses are allowed to inquire about the vaccination status of their customers and require that all unvaccinated individuals continue to wear masks indoors. Businesses are not required to ascertain the vaccination status of their customers and are allowed to adopt an “honor system” for masking compliance. Signage at entry points advising unvaccinated customers of the need to continue indoor masking is strongly recommended but not required. Business owners are required to enforce Labor and Industries workplace rules and federal CDC requirements but they are not required to enforce the Secretary of Health’s masking requirements. Fully vaccinated workers and customers who wish to continue masking are free to do so. Fully vaccinated individuals with significant risk factors for COVID complications and/or who have an immunocompromising disease condition or are taking medications that may reduce vaccine effectiveness are strongly urged to continue masking in indoor public places, especially if crowded or poorly ventilated.
The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. Globally, the pandemic continues to worsen. In the United States, the emergence of highly transmissible variants and faltering vaccination efforts make it likely that large-scale outbreaks will continue to occur and worsen in the fall and winter when respiratory viral infections are more easily spread. While we welcome the removal of many COVID-related restrictions on daily life, there is a very real possibility that masking mandates and activity restrictions may need to be reimposed at a future date.
Detailed ongoing masking and distancing directives can be found at:
General Public Order: Secretary_of_Health_Order_20-03_Statewide_Face_Coverings.pdf (wa.gov)
Workplace Order: F414-164-000 L&I Requirements and Guidance for Preventing COVID-19 (wa.gov)
CDC Public Transit Order: Mask-Order-CDC_GMTF_01-29-21-p.pdf