Face masks are now required for everyone ages 5 and older attending outdoor events with at least 500 people in King and Pierce counties.
King and Pierce county health officers Dr. Jeff Duchin and Dr. Anthony L-T Chen issued the outdoor mask orders last week due to a surge in COVID-19 cases. The mandates went into effect Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021.
Masks are “strongly recommended” for everyone over the age of 5 at smaller outdoor events or settings in the counties where people cannot remain at least 6 feet apart.
"The virus that causes COVID-19 can still sometimes spread outdoors, especially in large groups where physical distancing is difficult or impossible. This is an even greater risk now that the highly contagious delta variant is dominant in King County," a post on the Public Health Insider blog reads.
The statewide universal mask mandate for indoor public spaces regardless of vaccination status remains in effect. Washington's universal indoor mask mandate applies to most public places, including restaurants, bars, grocery stores, businesses and public-facing offices, according to the Washington State Department of Health.
A surge in COVID-19 cases due to the delta variant prompted the orders, according to health officials. Cases steadily rose from early July to mid to late August, according to data from the health departments.
"We are taking this step to ensure the most vulnerable people in our community do not become infected or spread COVID-19,” said Chen. “The highly contagious Delta variant is causing a rapid increase of positive COVID-19 cases and leading to increased hospitalizations and deaths."
From Aug. 11-24, Pierce County's 14-day case rate per 100,000 was 637. In the final weeks of August, one in five people diagnosed with COVID-19 were between the ages of 20-29.
Between early July and the end of August, the age-adjusted case rate per 100,000 people in King County rose significantly among people who were not fully vaccinated. On July 1, the case rate was 7.8 per 100,000 unvaccinated residents. By Aug. 25, the case rate was 90.7 per 100,000 unvaccinated residents.
The case rate for fully vaccinated residents on July 1 was 0.9 and 8.9 on Aug. 25.
Hospitalizations among unvaccinated people in King County spiked in early August, reaching nearly nine per day by Aug. 23. Deaths per day reached about 1.5 on Aug. 26.