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Washington governor urges people to wear masks indoors, requires them in schools this fall

Gov. Jay Inslee said masks are strongly recommended indoors in counties where COVID cases are surging. Masks will be required in K-12 schools this fall.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday asked that most people, even those who are fully vaccinated, continue to wear a mask in indoor public places. He also announced that masks will be required in schools again this fall.

The governor emphasized that the state would not force people to mask up in public. 

“This is only a recommendation, it is not a legal requirement,” said Inslee. “I know it's frustrating for people to even have to think about. That is the situation we're in, and the more people who get vaccinated the less we'll have to think about this.”

The governor said the recommendation is based on new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It's for counties showing a surge in new COVID-19 cases, which includes Clark County and most other counties in Washington state. 

RELATED: CDC's mask announcement does not undermine COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness, researcher says

Clark County Public Health issued a universal mask recommendation for indoor public places on Tuesday, a day before the state did. County health officer Dr. Alan Melnick said along with that, he is doubling down on vaccinations.

“People really need to get vaccinated and until we can get a large enough number of the population vaccinated, I completely agree with the CDC recommendations that in public places people would really be universally masked whether they're vaccinated or not,” said Melnick. 

Also on Wednesday, Gov. Inslee announced the state will continue to require students and staff in K-12 schools to wear masks indoors this fall.

The reason for all of this is a surge in new coronavirus cases. Statewide, new cases have once against surpassed 100 per 100,000 people over a 14-day period.

RELATED: OHA: All Oregonians should wear a mask indoors as cases, hospitalizations rise

“We are now in a new wave, you might call it the fifth wave," said Inslee. “But whatever you call it, these numbers are going up dramatically and that is most concerning.” 

According to health officials, the recent surge is primarily due to the delta COVID-19 variant, which is highly transmissible and can sometimes be spread by fully vaccinated people. However, officials said the available vaccines are effective against the delta variant. 

Inslee noted 96% of hospitalizations in Washington were among those who are not fully vaccinated.

Additionally, the governor wanted to dispel the misinformation claiming the COVID-19 vaccines are ineffective and even dangerous.

“You don't grow antlers out of your forehead when you get this vaccine," he said. "You get your life saved and you stop being a risk to your neighbors and your family.”

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