This article was last updated on Monday, February 28, 2022.
The governors of Washington, Oregon, and California have announced that, with declining COVID case rates and hospitalizations, plus changes to CDC masking guidance, all three states will be adjusting the end date to their statewide indoor mask requirements.
Instead of March 21, as was previously announced, Washington state’s indoor mask requirement - which includes schools and school buses - will now end at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, March 11. This means that beginning Monday, March 14, masks will become optional in our school buildings.
“We are turning a page in our fight against the COVID virus," said Inslee during a Feb. 28 press conference. "This page will be based more on empowering individuals and families in protecting themselves, rather than based on government restrictions. We can do this because we are significantly declining the activity of the virus in our state. ”
Despite the indoor mask mandate coming to an end, COVID-19 is still considered to be a significant health risk to many in the community, and those who wish to continue to wear masks in school are welcome to do so and will be supported.
State requirements related to other mitigation measures, such as contact tracing and indoor distancing, will remain in place and are expected to be revised by the Department of Health next week.
Until the mandate is lifted, masks will continue to be required for all students, staff, and visitors in all school buildings.
Mask mandate: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Why was the end-date for the mask mandate changed?
Data shows rates of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are declining rapidly in our state, and public health models show that, by mid-March, cases and hospitalizations are predicted to drop to levels we haven’t seen since last summer. Masks impact the learning environment, and with widespread access to vaccinations, our expansive school COVID-19 testing program, and rapidly declining cases and hospitalizations, it was time to rebalance the benefits and challenges of universal masking in schools.
What if I want my student to continue wearing a mask?
Barring a local requirement for masks, students and staff will continue to have the option to wear masks at school, with the expectation that those decisions will be respected. Those decisions should not be used to make assumptions about their personal beliefs or their health status and should not be commented on. Our schools will not tolerate bullying of any kind of students who continue wearing masks.
Will schools continue testing students and staff who show symptoms of COVID-19?
Yes. This announcement has no impact on the COVID-19 testing program in our schools.
What about masks for individuals who recently tested positive for COVID-19?
Masks may still be required for those who recently tested positive for COVID-19, were identified as a close contact for someone with COVID-19, or for other reasons identified by the Department of Health or a local health officer.
What responsibilities does a school district have if there are confirmed cases of COVID-19 in a school?
School districts are required by state law to report cases and outbreaks to their local health officer (this requirement was in law long before COVID-19).
What is being done to protect students and staff who are at greater risk of COVID-19?
Public health experts continue to recommend full vaccination and masking for those who are at greater risk for serious COVID-related health issues. The most important mitigation strategy is to continue increasing the number of students and school employees who are fully vaccinated.
What would cause a local health officer to start requiring masks in schools again?
Local health officers have always had the authority in state law to require health and safety mitigation measures in schools when the situation warrants it, and that will not change. Health officers will continue to monitor community case counts and hospitalizations, and they may add new mitigation measures for schools if they deem it necessary.