VANCOUVER, WASH. (KOIN) — As of Monday, anyone attending an outdoor event with 500 or more people in Washington state is required to wear a face-covering, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.
Gov. Jay Inslee announced the mandate last week. Though outdoor events are considered to be lower risk for COVID-19 transmission, five outdoor super-spreader events infected more than 500 people at concerts, fairs and rodeos across Washington.
Health experts say the delta variant spreads as easily as chicken pox outdoors, so this mask requirement is needed as COVID cases are increasing, mostly among the unvaccinated.
The outdoor mask mandate comes as the state’s hospitalization rates are at the highest level ever during the pandemic.
It is worth noting that if you’re vaccinated and get COVID, you’re less likely to end up in the hospital.
Hospitals in both Washington and Oregon are still overwhelmed with alarmingly high case numbers.
The Washington State Department of Health is encouraging hospitals to “limit and curtail elective procedures” in order to maintain enough capacity.
Dr. Alan Melnick with Clark County Public Health said he, personally, plans to avoid large events.
“The Watershed Concert in the Gorge resulted in 200 cases, so we’re seeing this transmission,” he told KOIN 6 News. “Certainly the more people you have in an outdoor setting where physical distancing is not possible the higher the risk.”
Enforcing the mask requirement isn’t easy and we’ve seen large events where people take them off. If you do go to a large event and see people not wearing a mask, Dr. Melnick suggests leaving.
Although the requirement is for outdoor events with 500 people or more, Dr. Melnick recommends wearing a mask at any event where physical distancing isn’t possible.
He said masking, physical distancing and getting vaccinated are the only ways out of this pandemic.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.