Mask off! Fully vaccinated individuals can go maskless outdoors

Masks must still be used in healthcare settings, schools, some private businesses

JAYCE CARRAL, Evergreen reporter

Whitman county residents who have been fully vaccinated for at least three weeks no longer have to wear masks outdoors.

Fully vaccinated individuals can also be maskless in some indoor public spaces, said Chris Skidmore, deputy director of Whitman County Public Health. This does not include healthcare settings, schools, long-term care facilities or some private businesses.

Individuals are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after they receive the second dose of the Moderna or Pfzier vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, Skidmore said the county’s public health department recommends people wait three weeks.

There is no way to restrict unvaccinated people from claiming they are vaccinated from going maskless because asking about a person’s vaccination status may be a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act violation, he said.

“At this point, it is going to be mainly a trust situation,” Skidmore said. “There is no real way to verify that somebody is vaccinated.”

Skidmore said he still recommends residents wear masks in most indoor settings.

“Just because you really don’t know if folks are vaccinated or not,” he said.

About 12,800 Whitman County residents are fully vaccinated, according to an email from Skidmore. However, Skidmore wrote that he believes the number is higher because many college students in the area list their home addresses rather than their address in the county.

The new mask recommendations were made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday. Gov. Jay Inslee also supported the center’s recommendations during a press conference on Thursday.

More information about where masks do or do not have to be used will be released soon, according to Inslee’s Twitter.

More information about vaccines can be found on the county’s public health website.