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Washington reinstates a mask mandate for restaurant guests and employees

Jay inslee face masks
Photograph: Shutterstock

Restaurant employees and dine-in guests in Washington state will be required starting Aug. 23 to wear face masks again, regardless of their vaccination status, under the updated safety protocols announced Wednesday by Gov. Jay Inslee.

Guests dining outside will not be required to wear a face-covering if they’ve been vaccinated, but the state is encouraging everyone to wear something over their mouth and nose if they’re part of a large outdoor gathering.

With the delta strain of coronavirus driving up COVID-19 infection rates, many counties, municipalities and businesses have reimposed mask mandates that were lifted earlier this year. But only three states other than Washington have required the safety measure for individuals who are fully vaccinated: Oregon, Louisiana and Hawaii. The coverings are also required of all indoor restaurant customers in Washington, D.C.  

“I know this will frustrate some vaccinated folks who thought they wouldn’t have to do this anymore,” Inslee said in a statement. “There are not enough people vaccinated. The result is the explosive growth of a much more infectious strain, the delta variant, and it increasingly concerns impacts on people of all ages.”

The governor’s office noted that every county in the state qualifies as a high transmission as defined by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and that all 35 of Washington’s local health commissioners called for a return to masking.

In addition, the number of hospitalized COVID-19 victims is at an all-time high in Washington, breaking the record set during a surge in December.

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