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Washington State is Doing Away with its Mask Mandate

— April 20, 2023

COVID guidelines are becoming more relaxed in healthcare settings.

As the COVID-19 pandemic quickly spread around the globe, the sudden adoption of mask wearing in public places was a shock to countless people. Then, soon enough, wearing a mask when out in public became the norm, and most people didn’t think twice about sliding the loops of the mask around their ears. Fortunately, times are changing, and mask mandate requirements are quickly fading both in the United States and around the globe. One of the last areas that has been requiring mask wearing is healthcare facilities, but as news out of Washington State shows, even that is starting to gradually go away as time passes. 

For most of the pandemic, Washington State has been one of the more conservative locations in terms of maintaining its mask mandate versus lifting rules and restrictions. As the rates of infection and hospitalization went up and down, the area tended to resist changes while maintaining relatively strict rules compared to other locations around the country. These choices were hotly debated, of course, but Washington State chose in line with other West Coast states like Oregon and California. 

Washington State is Doing Away with its Mask Mandate
Photo by cottonbro studio from Pexels

Against that backdrop, it is notable when a state like Washington drops a universal mask mandate in all healthcare facilities. This is yet another sign that the risk of COVID-19 is fading significantly and mask wearing is continuing to be phased out. The virus is not going away entirely, of course, and will likely remain a threat to public health indefinitely into the future, much like the flu. But as it becomes more of something society is going to live with on an ongoing basis, it is becoming less and less necessary to have widespread restrictions in place. 

Despite the fact that the statewide mandate to wear masks in healthcare facilities has expired, the experience of patients – and the people who work in those facilities – might not change in the near term. Many facilities are choosing to enforce their own mask requirements moving forward, regardless of state guidance. Those facilities feel that the safety of their patients and the comfort of everyone who comes for treatment points to maintaining the mask rule, at least for now. 

It seems likely that the use of masks in healthcare facilities in Washington and elsewhere will follow a path of gradual decline over the coming months and years. More and more people will become comfortable with the background risk that COVID-19 presents, and the shift will move toward fewer rules and fewer people wearing masks. With that said, some people may choose to continue to wear theirs permanently in certain settings, perhaps impacted emotionally by the toll that the pandemic took on their lives for several years. 

For some people, the thought of wearing a mask in a public place is something they left behind years ago. For others, it remains a daily factor, whether it is because they work in a healthcare facility or because they simply want an extra layer of protection while out and about. Either way, with states like Washington moving away from mandates, masks are likely to be seen less and less moving forward. 


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