County brings back indoor mask mandate for residents over 5

EVERETT, Wash. (AP) — Snohomish County’s health officer has announced the return of an indoor masking mandate for all residents age 5 and older, making the county where Everett is located one of the first in Washington to return to the widespread directive.

Dr. Chris Spitters said Tuesday at a news conference that the requirement comes after the county’s COVID-19 cases doubled in the past three weeks, The Seattle Times reported.

“Our situation continues to be alarming in Snohomish County,” Spitters said.

The directive includes retail, grocery and government buildings and any other public, indoor spaces. It does not apply to outdoor spaces, though Spitters encouraged people to wear masks outside as well.

The mandate, which applies regardless of vaccination status, goes into effect on Thursday.

“We really need to be thinking vaccination and masking in public, versus vaccination or masking,” Spitters said.

At least 15 long-term care facilities in Snohomish County have at least one confirmed case, and hospitals have at least 62 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, including four on “mechanical ventilation,” he said.

Widespread mask mandates largely ended after Gov. Jay Inslee lifted most COVID-19 restrictions at the end of June.

On Monday, Inslee, along with officials in Seattle and King County, issued broad orders requiring public employees to get vaccinated or lose their jobs as COVID-19 cases increase due to the more contagious delta variant and people who remain unvaccinated.

As of Aug. 10, nearly 71% of people age 12 and up have initiated vaccination and 64.6% in that age group are fully vaccinated, according to the state Department of Health.