Masks are an effective way to reduce spread of COVID-19
The COVID-19 Delta variant is spreading fast. As of October 25 in King County, proof of vaccination will be required for everyone ages 12+ at outdoor events of 500 or more people, indoor recreational events or establishments, restaurants, and bars. As of September 13 in Washington state, masks are required for everyone ages 5+ at outdoor events with 500 or more people, and continue to be required in public indoor spaces. For more information, please see our Current COVID-19 guidance page.
When should I wear a mask?
|Location||Fully vaccinated||Not fully vaccinated|
|Open outdoor public places (At least 6 feet distance from others)|
|Crowded outdoor public places (*When 6 feet distance can't be maintained. Outdoor events, busy streets, or trails)||Recommended*||*|
|Large outdoor events (500 people or more)|
|Indoor public places|
|All doctor's offices, hospitals, long-term care, testing/vaccination sites, correctional facilities, homeless service sites, schools and childcare, or on public transportation|
As of September 13, Washington state requires that everyone ages 5 and older, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in indoor public settings like grocery, retail, theaters, and entertainment establishments, and at outdoor events with 500 or more people. Masks are also recommended for everyone in crowded outdoor settings.
Masking in high-risk settings helps to protect everyone, including those that currently aren't able to be protected by the vaccine such as children under twelve, and those who are immune suppressed. Some vaccinated people may choose to wear a mask if they are at increased risk for severe infection, have an underlying health condition, or are in close contact with someone at increased risk. Some people also wear masks to protect themselves from other respiratory illnesses or allergens.
Snug-fitting masks can provide excellent protection against COVID-19. See this Public Health Insider blog post, available in English and Spanish, for more information about improving mask quality and fit to help protect from the Delta variant.
More information about face coverings
Wear face coverings that offer two or more layers of tightly woven fabric such as cotton and cotton blends that are breathable and provide a snug fit without gaps. The face covering must fit over your nose and mouth.
The highest quality masks, in order, are:
- Certified N95, KN95, or KF94 masks. These are disposable, not available in children's sizes, and more expensive.
- Surgical masks that have been tested to meet a national standard (ASTM 2/3). These are also disposable.
- Cloth masks that have a double layer (more on this below). These can be washed and re-used.
To protect yourself, wear face coverings properly.
- 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 your face covering after each use.
Snug-fitting masks provide excellent protection.
- Make sure masks fit snugly against your face. Gaps can let air with respiratory droplets leak in and around the edges of the mask.
- Use a cloth mask with multiple layers of fabric, or wear a disposable mask underneath a cloth mask.
- Choose masks with a nose wire or mask fitter
- For visuals of these tips, visit the CDC's guidance for improved mask use.
Some people do not need to wear masks, including:
- Babies and toddlers under age 2 should never wear cloth face coverings. Children ages 2-4 are encouraged to wear a face covering with adult supervision.
- Anyone with a disability that makes it hard for them to wear or remove a face covering.
- Anyone who is deaf and moves their face and mouth to communicate.
- Anyone who has been advised by a medical professional to not wear a face covering because of personal health issues.
- Anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, or unable to remove the face covering without help.
What is the best face covering for kids?
Comfort is the most important feature when considering masks for kids. A child needs to be able to wear their mask properly all day long for it to be effective. And kids need to be happy with the design, so they don't take them off.
After comfort, parents should look for the same qualities in kid’s masks that they do in adult masks: good fit and good filtration. Just like high quality adult masks, a kid’s mask should be made of 2-3 fabric layers of tightly woven cotton or cotton blend fabric, and be breathable, snug fitting and without gaps. Just recently, several brands of KN95 kids masks have come on the market. These masks offer a high level of filtration and a snug fit on smaller faces. They are a good option – but only if kids find them comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
Why is wearing a face covering important?
Cloth face coverings protect other people from getting COVID-19 from us when we talk, cough or sneeze.
Between 20-40 percent of people with COVID-19 don't show any symptoms but can still spread the virus to others. Recent research suggests wearing a face covering can significantly reduce the incidence of COVID-19. Until more of us are vaccinated, wearing masks will prevent spread of COVID-19 among unvaccinated populations, including children younger than 12 and people with compromised immune systems.
Is there a penalty for not wearing a face covering? Who will enforce the requirement to wear a face covering?
Not following the masking order may result in a misdemeanor subjecting the violator to a fine of up to $100 and/or up to 90 days in county jail. Local law enforcement agencies generally have primary enforcement jurisdiction in their localities. For more information, visit the Washington State Department of Health website.
Can a business legally prevent me from entering if I am not wearing a face covering?
Yes. If a person is required to wear a face covering under Washington state guidance, a business must require the person to wear a mask and prohibit entry if they decline. For more information, visit the Washington State Department of Health website.
What if a customer believes a business isn’t enforcing the mask order?
Customers who are concerned that a business is not adequately enforcing the face mask order can submit an anonymous complaint using this online complaint form. For more information, visit the Washington State Department of Health website.
Businesses, employers, and non-profits
Businesses and organizations with indoor public spaces are required to post signs explaining their mask policy. Organizations can download a sign that can be used for this purpose below, or use this Business Signage Toolkit from the Washington Department of Health.
Link/share our site at kingcounty.gov/masks