Washington State will require all residents, including those who are fully vaccinated, to wear a mask in most public indoor settings, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Wednesday, becoming the fifth state to now have some form of statewide mask mandate in place as the delta variant sparks new surges of Covid-19 nationwide.
Under Washington’s new order, which will go into effect August 23, masks will be required in nearly every indoor public space, with some limited exceptions including non-public office sites where everyone is fully vaccinated, “when working alone indoors or in a vehicle with no public face-to-face interaction” and at small private gatherings with only vaccinated attendees.
Nevada was the first state to reimpose some form of mask mandate in July, requiring that masks be worn in public indoor settings, but only in counties with substantial or high Covid-19 transmission.
Hawaii still has an indoor mask mandate in place after never rescinding theirs earlier this year, as every other state with an order in place did.
California, Connecticut, Illinois, New York and Washington have kept mask mandates in place that apply only to the unvaccinated.
Washington, D.C., also has a mask mandate in place, as do other cities including Atlanta, St. Louis and Los Angeles.
“We have seen over the last year how widespread masking also saves lives by reducing infection,” Inslee said in a statement on reimposing Washington’s mandate. “I know this will frustrate some vaccinated folks who thought they wouldn’t have to do this anymore. There are not enough people vaccinated. The result is the explosive growth of a much more infectious strain.”
64%. That’s the percentage of Americans that supported their state or local government mandating masks in an Axios/Ipsos poll conducted August 13-16. Most Republicans remain opposed to mask mandates, however, with only 40% backing them.
In contrast to the states that have reimposed mandates, a number of states instead have statewide rules that prohibit local governments or school districts from imposing their own mask mandates. Iowa, Florida, Montana, Arizona, North Dakota, Texas, Tennessee and South Carolina bar localities from imposing mandates and Iowa, Florida, Texas, Tennessee, Arizona, Utah, South Carolina and Oklahoma ban school mask orders, though Arizona’s order doesn’t legally go into effect until September 29. Arkansas also had a local and school mask mandate ban in effect, but a court has struck it down while litigation against the ban moves forward.
Mask mandates have been in place throughout the pandemic, but nearly every state bar Hawaii had dropped their orders by late May after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidance saying fully vaccinated people do not have to wear masks indoors. As the delta variant took hold nationwide and evidence showed that vaccinated people were now potentially capable of transmitting Covid-19, however, the CDC reversed course, again issuing new guidance in late July saying even the fully vaccinated should wear masks indoors in areas with high Covid-19 transmission.