Indoor masking returns

Public spaces in WSU, city facilities affected

ABBY DAVIS, Evergreen copy chief

Masks are now required in public indoor spaces starting Monday for all Washingtonians over the age of five regardless of vaccination status.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced the mandate during a press conference Tuesday in an attempt to curb the surge of the COVID-19 Delta variant. 

The Pullman Police Department announced in a press release its compliance with the mandate. Individuals are expected to wear masks in spaces such as the City Hall lobby, City Council chambers, senior center and Neill Public Library. 

WSU sent out a press release Wednesday aligning the university with state expectations. Phil Weiler, WSU vice president for marketing and communications, said WSU anticipated the announcement and was already preparing to implement its own mask mandate. 

Weiler said the university developed a set of criteria to determine whether individual WSU campuses and extension offices needed indoor mask requirements. 

Criteria include the number of hospitalizations, infections and the vaccination rate of a particular community, he said. 

“Either way, quite frankly, it makes it a little bit easier to have [the mandate] be consistent across the state,” he said. “But if we were doing it ourselves, we would probably try to be a little bit more fine-tuned.”

All WSU communities currently fall within the criteria set for masking indoors, Weiler said.   

If Inslee ends up easing up on mask regulations, Weiler said WSU is prepared to evaluate each university community and possibly issue a WSU-specific mandate.

Weiler said he does not believe wearing a mask is too difficult and is a good way to prevent becoming sick and spreading COVID-19 to others. 

“[Mask wearing] is a small price to pay for us to be able to be back in person,” he said. “The combination of masks and vaccinations really are highly effective.”

As of now, masks at large outdoor events, such as football games, are not mandatory. However, Weiler said he would not be surprised if Inslee issued additional requirements. 

In the meantime, Weiler said he encourages everyone to mask both indoors and outdoors. WSU will continue following all requirements at the city, county, state or federal level regarding mask-wearing.