9 Western WA counties now recommend mask use indoors

SEATTLE (AP) — Health officials in more than a half-dozen western Washington counties are now recommending mask-wearing in indoor public spaces regardless of vaccine status because of a rise in COVID-19 cases and the highly infectious delta variant.

Public Health Seattle & King County officials said on Monday in a joint statement with the counties that local health officers from around the Puget Sound region were joining together in the recommendation after King County health officer, Dr. Jeff Duchin, issued the guidance on Friday.

Officials in Pierce, Snohomish, Kitsap, Clallam, Jefferson, San Juan and Grays Harbor counties joined King in the recommendation.

“This step will help reduce the risk of COVID-19 to the public, including customers and workers, help stem the increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in many parts of the state, and decrease the spread of the highly contagious delta variant,” county officials said in the joint statement.

Skagit County Health Officer Howard Leibrand separately made the indoor spaces masking recommendation on Monday, as did officials in Multnomah County, which is home to Portland, Oregon.

Washington state health officials have talked about masking in public indoor spaces but aren’t making the same recommendation at this point. State’s epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist has said state officials support local jurisdictions’ efforts.

A statewide public indoor mask mandate was lifted on June 30.

The recommended extra layer of protection is intended for places such as grocery stores, restaurants, retail, theaters, and entertainment establishments, where people can’t be sure everyone is vaccinated, according to Duchin.

Vaccinations continue to be the best defense against COVID-19 and remain safe, effective and readily available for everyone age 12 and up, the joint statement said.