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Announcement expected this week for Washington's indoor mask mandate

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to announce this week the next steps toward removing the state's indoor mask mandate.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — As COVID cases decline, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to announce more changes this week to the mask mandate in the state.

The Governor announced the outdoor masking rule will end on Feb. 18. That rule required masks to be worn at large outdoor events. The state will also remove the requirement that hospitals postpone non-elective surgery on Feb. 18 and end hospital assignments for National Guard members.

“As you know we've saved thousands of lives in the state of Washington because we have been responsible and because we have followed science, and we are going to continue to do that,” Gov. Inslee said. “Fortunately, the science now allows us to move to a new transitional period of lifting these requirements.”

There is no date for when the indoor mask mandate will lift, but Inslee said the "day is coming.” The Governor said he would have more details this week about the timing for ending the state’s mask requirements.

A statewide indoor mask mandate has been in place in Washington since Aug. 23, 2021. An outdoor mask mandate was added in September for events with 500 or more people.

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Last week, both Oregon and California announced plans to lift mask mandates in indoor places, leaving many in Washington wondering when the Evergreen State will announce changes.

The spike in COVID-19 cases related to the Omicron variant is on a downward trend. Cases in Washington are dropping quickly, a trend that is expected to continue.

Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal has asked the state Department of Health and Governor Inslee to remove the state mask mandate for students.

Reykdal said with high immunity rates and rapid testing available, now is the time to address masking in schools.

“As part of the transition from pandemic to endemic, I believe it is safe and timely to eliminate the statewide masking requirement for students and allow for a decision by local health officials. I recommend the Governor and Department of Health change the guidance to reflect this in the coming weeks,” Reykdal wrote.

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