Washington to Reinstate Indoor Mask Mandate and Require Proof of Vaccination of Certain Workers

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Mask Mandate

Effective August 23, 2021, masks will once again be required in indoor public spaces in Washington, regardless of vaccination status, for everyone over the age of five.  Masks will not be required for vaccinated employees in office spaces that are not public-facing, but are still required for unvaccinated employees in such offices.  Masks will also not be required for individuals working alone with no in-person interaction.

As a general matter, masks will not be required, but are strongly encouraged, in crowded outdoor settings.  However, unvaccinated employees are still required to wear masks when working outdoors with other people.

Mandatory Vaccination for State, Health Care, and Education Workers

Governor Inslee issued Proclamation 21-14 on August 10, mandating that all workers for state agencies, health care providers, and workers in “health care settings” (any setting that is primarily used for the delivery of in-person health care services) must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 18.  Workers must provide proof of vaccination to the employer in the form of a vaccine card, documentation of vaccination from a health care provider, or state immunization information system record.  A personal attestation is not sufficient proof of vaccination status.

The only exemptions permitted under the Proclamation are for those employees with a disability or sincerely-held religious belief precluding vaccination.  Employers are required to document such exemptions.  A disability-related exemption must be supported by documentation from a health care or rehabilitation professional authorized to practice in Washington stating that the individual has a disability necessitating the accommodation and indicating the duration of the need for accommodation.  An exemption based on a sincerely-held religious belief must be supported by a statement regarding the ways in which vaccination conflicts with the religious observance, practice, or belief of the individual.

On August 18, Governor Inslee announced that the vaccine mandate will also extend to workers at K-12 schools (including private and charter schools), higher-education institutions, and most childcare providers.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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