Masks and Face Coverings

Mask Requirements

Effective March 12, 2022 masks are optional in most settings for people above five years of age. Everyone in Washington must wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth in the following indoor settings:

  • Health care settings.
  • Long-term care settings.
  • Correctional and jail settings.

There are several exceptions to masking within required settings above:

  • Children under five years of age. However, children age two to four years old can wear a mask under close adult supervision. Children under two years of age should not wear a mask due to the risk of suffocation.
  • People with a medical or mental health condition or disability that prevents them from wearing a mask.
  • If not wearing a face covering is essential to communication when one or more party involved in the conversation is deaf or hard of hearing.
  • Fully vaccinated workers who are working alone or in an area not accessible to the public.
  • While obtaining a service or engaged in a transient activity that requires temporary and very brief removal of the face covering.
  • When necessary to confirm the person’s identity.
  • When federal or state law prohibits wearing a face covering or requires the removal of a face covering.
  • When unable to put on a face covering due to an emergency.
  • While sleeping, eating, drinking or engaging in personal hygiene/grooming activities that require the removal of the face covering.
  • While swimming or engaged in other water sports or recreation.

The requirements for mask use at your workplace might be different than for the general public. Masking guidance for employers is available from the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries

Businesses may require masking for employees and customers, please follow and respect business policies. 


Why Wear a Face Covering

Face coverings are an additional tool we can use to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community. They protect others by blocking droplets that contain the virus from spreading to others when someone with the infection coughs, sneezes or speaks. After vaccination, masks are the best tool we have to reduce the spread of COVID-19. They provide an additional layer of protection even if you're already vaccinated.  


Where You Need To Wear A Face Covering

Effective March 12, 2022 everyone in Washington must wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth in the following indoor settings:

  • Health care settings such as hospitals, clinics, K-12 nurse/health rooms, etcetera. 
  • Long-term care settings.
  • Correctional and jail settings.

This order will remain in effect until it is repealed or replaced by the Secretary of Health, or until it is ended by the Governor.

We encourage everyone, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a mask in any crowded setting, no matter how large or small. Masks provide an extra layer of protection from COVID-19 and the highly infectious omicron variant. 


What Kind of Face Coverings to Use

Face coverings should fit snugly over your nose and mouth and consist of multiple layers. If your mask or face covering only consists of one layer, consider doubling up. 

Information about choosing the right mask, and wearing it correctly, is available from the CDC.

Are clear face shields a good alternative to cloth face covering?

No. A face shield is not an acceptable substitute for a mask or cloth face covering because face shields do not fully cover the nose and mouth of the wearer, allowing air to freely escape or enter from the sides of the shield. Face shields may be worn in addition to a mask or face covering to provide additional "splash" protection to the wearer from coughs and sneezes, but should never be worn in place of a mask or face covering. 

A face shield with a drape may be used by people with developmental, behavioral, or medical conditions that prevent them from wearing a face covering. A face shield with a drape may also be used by children with similar conditions in childcare, day camp, and K-12 settings. For more information about appropriate mask usage in K-12 settings, refer to DOH's K-12 Requirements for the 2021-2022 School Year

Refer to the Secretary of Health's Mask Order (additional provisions) for acceptable face covering criteria. See L&I's COVID-19 Prevention at Work for more information about acceptable types of face coverings in the workplace.


How to Properly Wear Face Coverings

  • Your mask should cover your nose and mouth at all times.
  • Always wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before you put on a face covering and after removing it.
  • Change your face covering when it gets moist.
  • Wash reusable face coverings after each use.

Learn more about how to appropriately wear a face covering: 

Additional guidance on using face coverings is available from the CDC.


Where to Get a Face Covering If You Can’t Buy One


Information for Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Deafblind Community Members

Mask requirements affect community members who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deafblind in different ways than others. We’ve compiled resources to explain how the directive applies to you if you are deaf, hard of hearing, or deafblind.


Enforcement

People are encouraged to follow mask requirements because wearing masks is an effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Members of the public are required by law to comply with the mask order. Noncompliance with this order may be subject to criminal penalties pursuant to RCW 43.70.130(7), RCW 70.05.120(4), and WAC 246-100-070(3).

Please do not call 911 to report non-compliance with this order. Only call 911 in an emergency.

To report a business in violation of the mask order, use this Report a COVID-19 Violation form from Washington State.