Seattle is restoring general mask regulations for large outdoor concerts or sports events to control the spread of Covid-19 in the city and surrounding counties.
King County Health Officer Jeff Duchin announced on Thursday that starting September 7th, any outdoor activities involving more than 500 people will require masks. The order applies to anyone 5 years and older, regardless of the vaccination status.
The health department’s order also “strongly recommends” wearing face shields in all other outdoor environments where people cannot stay six feet away from people who are not part of the same family.
King County, where Seattle is located, has more than 2.2 million residents, making it the most populous county in Washington State and the 12th most populous county in the United States.
Public health officials said that the latest surge in Covid-19 infections driven by the Delta variant is “deteriorating hospitals and healthcare systems”. Although King County’s vaccination rate is “the highest of all metropolitan areas” in the United States, officials say that about 750,000 people have not been vaccinated, including children under 12 years of age.
“Every day, a large number of hospitals get in touch with the Washington Medical Coordination Center. In the past few days, nearly 60% of calls are related to Covid,” said Dr. Steve Mitchell, director of emergency services at Harborview Medical Center The statement said. “The capacity and staffing issues of hospitals are common and consistent across the state.”
Washington’s neighboring state, Oregon, reinstated its regulations on wearing masks in public outdoor places last month. Strict regulations set the couple apart from other US states that have so far targeted indoor environments.
Despite having the highest level of vaccination coverage in the United States, Covid-19 hospitalization rates in both states have reached record highs. Washington State (60.4%) ranks 9th in the proportion of fully vaccinated U.S. populations, while Oregon ranks 12th (58.1%).