Following new national guidance relaxing mask mandates for vaccinated people, state health officials on Wednesday advised Washingtonians to respect each other, avoid shaming people who want to keep their masks, and not to game the system amid this moment of transition.
During a weekly Zoom update Wednesday, Dr. Umair Shah, the state’s secretary of health, said the state had been caught off-guard by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s announcement last week easing mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people.
As a result, the Department of Health wasn’t prepared with its own clear guidelines, which Shah said would be released by the end of the week.
In the meantime, Shah recommended that Washingtonians “respect the rules of the room you’re in” and avoid shaming others for continuing to mask up.
Public Health – Seattle & King County also plans to issue new local directives for mask-wearing this week.
When asked about the possibility that people might try to game the system by claiming to be vaccinated just to stop wearing their masks, assistant Secretary of Health Michele Roberts responded by saying: “Shame on them. We each need to do our part.”
People vaccinated in Washington state can access their records online to set up a mobile certificate of COVID-19 vaccination, said Roberts. She recommended doing so well ahead of attending an event requiring proof of vaccination.
The CDC’s shift in guidance took many by surprise, leaving policymakers, businesses and individuals to sort through policies and practices to determine whether to ditch facial coverings.
While some states, like New York, are allowing fully vaccinated residents to stop wearing masks immediately, the transition will be more gradual elsewhere. California is keeping mask requirements in place until mid-June.
More than 6.3 million vaccine doses have been administered to Washington residents, 27,934 of them to 12- to 15-year-olds. Roberts said that figure was double the national average for younger teens, who recently became eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine.