Mask questions at your business? We have answers

By: Rachel Smith Posted: 05/24/2021

Your guide to the many new announcements as vaccinations, infection rates, and economic reopening continue to evolve.

Many new guidelines and announcements have marked the last two weeks as vaccinations, infection rates, and economic reopening continue to evolve. We remain optimistic that we are on the road to recovery, as the number of fully vaccinated people continues to increase, but we still have a way to go before we can put this pandemic behind us.

Mask Guidance Clarified for Businesses

On May 13, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities – large or small – without wearing a mask.

Gov. Jay Inslee soon followed with an announcement that Washington state would fully adopt the CDC’s masking guidance, emphasizing that fully vaccinated individuals can still choose to wear a mask if desired and businesses retain the right to require customers and/or employees to wear masks.

The CDC director and the Washington State Department of Health have since clarified that ending indoor mask mandates should be linked to local COVID-19 infection and hospitalization rates, as well as vaccination coverage rates.

Last Thursday, King County's Health Officer issued a directive that strongly urges residents to continue wearing a face mask in indoor public settings, whether or not they are fully vaccinated.

Last Friday, a proclamation from the Governor’s Office said business owners may adopt an honor system and assume that any customer who is not wearing a face covering has been fully vaccinated. This proclamation also notes that business owners and local authorities can require customers to wear a face covering, and local authorities cannot prohibit business owners from requiring customers to wear a face covering.

Employers can continue to require employees wear a face covering, regardless of vaccination status. If employers would like to allow employees at a worksite to work without wearing a mask, they must obtain proof of vaccination, or obtain a self-attestation regarding employees' fully vaccinated status. Updated facial covering guidance for employers, issued by the state on May 20, is available here.

Reopening

As of last Tuesday, all counties are in Phase 3 of the Healthy Washington: Roadmap to Recovery reopening plan. This came after a two-week pause on phase movement to evaluate an emerging trend of flattening COVID-19 cases across Washington.

Good news: As of last week, the plateau in cases became a slight decline.

Washington is moving toward a statewide reopening date of June 30.

  • The full reopening date of June 30 does not mean that Washington’s state of emergency will lift. And it does not guarantee full opening if the state’s COVID-19 data worsens – specifically if the state’s ICU capacity reaches 90% at any point then there will be a rollback of activities again.
  • The full reopening could happen earlier if 70% or more of Washington residents 16 years and older have initiated vaccination.

Vaccines

Last week, King County passed the threshold of 70% of residents 16 years and older having one or more vaccine doses! The Chamber, Business Health Trust and our partners continue to bring vaccines to those most in need, this week hosting vaccine clinics in Bothell.

Widespread COVID-19 vaccination keeps employees healthy and reduces absences from illness, quarantine, or caring for sick loved ones.

  1. Share information: Include vaccine resources in communications to staff, clients, or members, and post flyers in workplace settings if appropriate and applicable.
  2. Make it easy to get vaccinated: Arrange on-site vaccinations, offer paid leave for workers to get vaccinated, shift schedules to support vaccination during work hours, and plan ahead for staffing in case workers experience side effects and need to take time off to recover.
  3. Encourage and celebrate vaccination: Be vaccine champions showcasing the diversity of the workforce and sharing personal reasons for getting vaccinated, celebrate when staff are vaccinated with buttons, stickers, or other items, and share testimonies from staff about their experiences getting vaccinated when communicating to employees.

Two Things to Read & Watch

  1. Read the King County and Governor’s Office mask guidance and adjust as needed.
  2. Arrange on-site vaccinations for your employees