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Keep wearing those masks, King County health official urges

Don’t get rid of your face masks just yet, even if you’re vaccinated.

King County has issued a public health directive that strongly urges all residents to continue wearing face masks in indoor public settings, whether they are vaccinated or not. It also encourages businesses that serve the public to maintain mask requirements.

This formal directive goes against surprise guidance from the CDC last week that has also been adopted by the state.

Dr. Jeff Duchin, the chief health officer for Public Health – Seattle-King County, says guidance from federal and state authorities was uncoordinated and counterproductive.

I think there was poor planning regarding the rollout and communication of that guidance by the CDC, which was uncharacteristic,” Duchin said. “And it has led to unnecessary and avoidable confusion and frustration for the public, for our businesses, for you and for me, for policymakers, for public health professionals alike.”

He says if unvaccinated people do not wear masks, the risk for COVID-19 spread increases.

First and foremost, there's no practical way to know who is vaccinated and who is not in public spaces, placing a burden on businesses and front-line workers and undermining the effectiveness of the guidance wherever COVID-19 is still circulating and vaccination rates are not high,” Duchin said.

The directive is voluntary and will remain in effect until Public Health – Seattle-King County confirms that 70 percent or more of residents age 16 and older are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Duchin expects that around the end of June – the same time Gov. Jay Inslee said he wants to fully reopen the state.

Duchin says right now about 57 percent of King County residents 16 and older are fully vaccinated.

More information about the directive is available in this Q&A.

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