Gov. Jay Inslee today announced a statewide mandatory face covering order that takes effect Aug. 23. The mask mandate applies to everyone regardless of their vaccination status. In contrast to the mask mandate that took effect in June 2020 that applied to both indoor and outdoor public settings, this one will only apply to indoor public settings.
The existence of vaccines also results in some differences this time around, the governor said. Although the spread of the delta variant is contributing to an “exponential growth” in case counts in Washington, over half of the state’s population is vaccinated and worksites that are not easily accessible to the public will be exempt if everyone is vaccinated. Small private indoor gatherings where all attendees are vaccinated are also exempt.
There was some discussion over the last few weeks about requiring businesses to verify the vaccination status of guests, similar to policies enacted in New York City and San Fransisco. The Washington Hospitality Association’s government affairs team met with policy makers to share the challenges hospitality businesses would face if a similar policy was enacted in Washington state. Thankfully, such a requirement was not part of today’s announcement.
Businesses may continue to require vaccines as a condition of employment or guest entry. Be sure to join us on Wednesday, Aug. 25 at 10 a.m. for a discussion with Washington Hospitality Association Board Member Catharine Morisset of Fisher Phillips for a discussion on this latest development and best practices for mandatory vaccine policies.
The governor did not add capacity limits or additional restrictions on businesses beyond the mask requirements today but reminded Washingtonians that this is a “legally binding order that will be enforced in full.”