Following the leadership of many other states, Washington Governor Jay Inslee has announced that the state is moving into a less restrictive phase of the COVID-19 response.
New mesh-free zones
Inslee has changed its “Washington Ready” proclamation (20-25.18) to immediately allow all outdoor workers to go maskless. Fully vaccinated workers can walk without masks indoors if they are in areas where no customers, volunteers, visitors or non-employees are present.
From 21 March 2022, the state will no longer mandate facial clothing indoors in businesses, grocery stores, retail businesses, restaurants, bars, gyms, recreation centers, indoor athletics facilities, schools, child care facilities, libraries or houses of worship. However, private companies may still choose to require employees, customers or residents to wear face clothing.
The Minister of Health also amended his state-wide face mask executive order (Ordering 20-03.7) immediately abolish the mask requirement for outdoor events or gatherings attended by at least 500 people.
Places where masking should continue
Even after March 21, 2022, the general mask requirement will continue in health settings (such as hospitals, outpatient clinics, and dental clinics), long-term care, public transportation, taxis, carpooling, and probation. Federal law still requires face clothing in certain environments, such as public transportation and school buses.
Unvaccinated workers must also continue to wear masks indoors at work until further notice.
Right to mask
As an additional measure, Inslee changed Proclamation 21.08-1 (Safe Workers) to protect employees from discipline in order to choose to wear a face mask at work. This is in line with a similar law, RCW 49.17.485 (2), adopted in 2021, which protects a worker’s right to wear face clothing and other personal protective equipment during a public health emergency.
From March 1, 2022, nationwide vaccine confirmation for major events will no longer be required. No other changes to the state’s vaccination rules have been announced.
King County (which includes Seattle) announced that as of March 1, its restaurants, bars, theaters and gyms will no longer be required to check the vaccination status of their patrons. Companies will be free to set their own vaccination requirements if they wish, but the county-wide requirement will disappear. The same goes for outdoor events in King County with more than 500 people, such as concerts and sporting events.
All violations of the state’s proclamations are subject to criminal sanctions (as is the case with all the governor’s recent proclamations).
Reopening orders contain extensive requirements that create compliance issues that can vary significantly depending on the specific state or local jurisdiction.
Jackson Lewis PC © 2022National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 55