At a Monday afternoon virtual press conference, Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee followed up on an earlier announcement, along with the governors of Oregon and California, hastening the end of the indoor mask mandate.
“Earlier today, Washington joined both Oregon and California in announcing a shorter timeline for lifting the mask mandate, including in our schools,” Inslee said, citing declining COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. “So, after March 11th, the vast majority of businesses and public spaces will be free of a mask mandate, and that includes our schools in the state of Washington.”
The updated timeline follows the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention’s Friday issuance of new masking guidelines, which shows that approximately 70% of Americans live in areas under “low” or “medium” threat from the virus, meaning people can unmask when indoors.
“Based on their data, I am confident that March 11th, we will be out of the high risk category as a state,” Inslee said, “and that’s how we’ve thought about this. So, we believe we will be out of that category where the CDC would recommend masks by March 11th.”
Some Republican lawmakers were critical of Inslee for waiting to lift the mask mandate.
Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, and Rep. J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, issued a joint statement after the gubernatorial trio’s announcement but before Inslee’s press conference.
“California has already ended its statewide indoor mask mandate,” the Republican leaders said. “And now California’s Senate President Pro Tem says the Democrats will consider a Republican proposal to end Governor Newsom’s state of emergency, which also began two years ago this week. While we’re glad to see Governor Inslee adjust his timeline for ending the statewide mask mandate to March 12, we’re disappointed that there seems to be no end in sight for the one-man rule he has enjoyed – especially after the Democrat majority officially abdicated all legislative oversight of the emergency proclamations.”
Inslee addressed the timing of the end of the mask mandate during his press conference.
“But we don’t think it would be the right decision to do that earlier,” the governor said, “given the need to move forward as a state.”
Inslee noted there are some places where the mask mandate will still apply.
“After March 11th, masks will still be required in certain settings, high risk settings – health care facilities, corrections facilities, and long-term care facilities,” he explained. “And so, we’ll look forward to continuing that work.”
State Secretary of Health Umair Sha offered his support to the governor regarding the impending end of the state mask mandate.
“As the governor has stated, this updated timeline is a direct result of following the science and also, after careful review of the CDC and its guidance that was released on Friday,” he said.
This article was originally posted on Inslee ‘confident’ state will have lower COVID risk on March 11