King County has reached the 70% vaccination threshold, triggering a two-week countdown until the county’s mask mandate is rescinded, the county announced Tuesday. Seventy percent of county residents ages 16 and older have now received either the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, Public Health – Seattle & King County announced.
The county’s mask mandate will remain in effect until two weeks from Tuesday, or June 29.
“Two weeks from today, my local mask mandate will no longer apply and everyone will be following the CDC and Washington state guidance,” Dr. Jeff Duchin, King County health officer, said. “The vaccines have put us in a very good place, currently, compared to any other time in the pandemic. We have drastically reduced the numbers of deaths, hospitalizations and the number of cases, and we can continue to do that to the extent that we continue to improve our vaccine coverage.”
People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after they get both shots of Moderna or Pfizer, or the one dose of Johnson & Johnson, the public health department has said.
State and federal guidance says that unvaccinated people should continue to wear a mask indoors and everyone should continue to wear masks in certain crowded or high-risk indoor environments, including schools, health care facilities, jails and public transit.
Duchin said, with 70% completing vaccination, King County is “one of the most vaccinated counties of comparable size in the country.”
“We took big steps toward this milestone by opening our high-volume vaccination clinics in areas hardest hit by the virus, partnering with dozens of nonprofits to connect with hard-to-reach communities, and now working with schools and mobile teams to get the vaccine to every King County resident,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said in a prepared statement. “Now let’s finish the task, ensuring that every person in King County can get vaccinated as soon as possible, and defeat this pandemic.”
Duchin had previously expressed frustration with federal health agencies, which announced that those who are fully vaccinated no longer have to wear masks. Duchin, last month, issued his mandate, ordering people to continue wearing masks indoors.
“Bear with us a little bit longer,” he said at the time.
The increasing vaccination rate means King County’s mask mandate will end right around the same time that all pandemic-related business restrictions in Washington disappear.
Gov. Jay Inslee has said the state will fully reopen, with no restrictions, at the end of June or when 70% of state residents 16 and older have one vaccine dose, whichever comes first.
Currently, 67.2% of state residents have at least one vaccine dose, according to the state Department of Health. The state’s online data dashboard still says that 64.7% have one dose, but that is out of date, Inslee’s office said.
“The dashboard is currently out of date after some CDC data was incorporated,” Inslee spokesperson Mike Faulk said. There are minor differences between state counts and federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention counts, as the agencies have had difficulty sharing data from people vaccinated by the Department of Defense, the federal Bureau of Prisons and Veterans Affairs. Also, the CDC uses data for people age 18 and up, while Washington uses data for people age 16 and up.
Inslee’s office said they do not expect to hit 70% this week.
Washington is among the last states in the country with coronavirus restrictions still in place.
Only five states — Washington, Oregon, New Mexico, Hawaii and Michigan — have yet to fully reopen, according to a New York Times database.
“For those who would advocate changing our strategy, we are on the two-yard line,” Inslee said in a prepared statement Tuesday. “We are not going to change the game plan now. We are going to see this through.”