SEATTLE — King County will lift its indoor mask mandate next month as long as local COVID-19 trends hold or improve, the county’s health officer announced Friday following new federal changes that loosen nationwide guidelines for face coverings.
The news marks a reflection of recent falling hospitalization and infection numbers, which skyrocketed to record levels during the region’s surge of the omicron variant, and improving vaccination levels, according to a statement from King County health officer Dr. Jeff Duchin.
If county residents can maintain decreasing COVID-19 trends, the mask mandate would lift March 21, the same day Gov. Inslee has announced the mask mandate will end for schools, child care facilities, grocery stores, gyms, bars and other indoor establishments.
Under new classification methods from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, King County is considered to be at a “low COVID-19 community level,” though Duchin noted that the classification “does not mean COVID is over.”
“A layered approach to prevention remains important, particularly to help protect those at higher risk of severe illness,” he said.
Residents should continue to stay up-to-date on vaccinations and boosters, improve indoor air quality through ventilation and filtration and — especially for those at high risk of severe illness — mask when in crowded and poorly ventilated indoor spaces.
“And, we all need to be able to employ layered prevention measures when COVID-19 risk increases,” Duchin said.
King County is averaging around 400 new infections per day — slightly higher than, but much closer to, pre-omicron levels in mid-December. The county is also reporting about 10 daily hospitalizations and six deaths per day.