Washington state mask mandate for businesses, schools ends March 21


While Gov. Jay Inslee insists he made a "science-based decision" in announcing a March 21 end to the state's indoor mask mandate — including businesses and schools and excluding health care settings and correctional facilities — know that the mask policy is not changing because the science surrounding masks has changed.

Wearing a mask is still thought to be better at preventing contraction of COVID-19 than wearing no mask. Wearing an N95 mask is still thought to be better at prevention than the cloth ones everyone is wearing. And, of course, even though this state mandate on masks is ending, businesses can still require them and individuals are still free to wear them. (Read, "Will a mask protect me even if no one else is wearing one?" for more information about personal decisions for you and your family.)

The reason the mask mandate is changing is because vaccines are widely available, numbers are lowering in regard to COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths, and there is a growing realization that the virus is not going away, coupled with growing concern about the harm mask policies might have on child development. 

"Look," Inslee explained in his press conference Thursday, "The state is stepping back from a mandate." Read more details about where mandates will remain in this Seattle Times story.

Inslee also announced that his emergency powers won't be ending on March 21. Keeping one-man rule intact is a trend this week, as the Senate failed to advance meaningful emergency-powers reform that would allow legislators to represent their constituents and bring us in line with other states in the nation. 

Again, the science around masks hasn't changed. The numbers surrounding medical resources have, Inslee said. Another likely factor? Increasing objections from Washingtonians who think the small benefit that might be tied to our state's any-mask-goes mask mandate — and not when a pretzel is present — doesn't outweigh the damage it could be causing. 

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