Health officials in Washington, Oregon and California have announced an update to masking mandates.

On Monday, Feb. 28, the group known as the Western States said that with declining case rates and hospitalizations across the West, the three states are moving together to update masking guidance.

On March 12, California, Oregon and Washington will lift current masking rules and adopt new indoor mask policies, according to a news release from Oregon Health Authority.

Those states will also move from mask requirements in schools to mask recommendations.

State policies do not change federal requirements, however, which still include masks on public transit.

As well, health care settings, including local hospitals, will continue to require staff and patients to be masked for now.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said continued monitoring of the state’s health data has allowed health officials to adjust the timing of the statewide mask requirement.

“While this represents another step forward for Washingtonians, we must still be mindful that many within our communities remain vulnerable,” Inslee said in a statement.

“Many businesses and families will continue choosing to wear masks because we’ve learned how effective they are at keeping one another safe. As we transition to this next phase, we will continue to move forward together carefully and cautiously.”

The new date does not change any other aspect of the updated mask requirements that Inslee announced last week. Masks will still be required in certain settings including health care, corrections facilities and long-term care facilities.

The Washington State Department of Health will be issuing new guidance for K-12 schools next week so districts can prepare to implement updated safety protocols, Inslee said.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown pointed out that COVID-19 does not stop at borders and that West Coast communities and economies are linked.

“Together, as we continue to recover from the omicron surge, we will build resiliency and prepare for the next variant and the next pandemic,” she said.

“As we learn to live with this virus, we must remain vigilant to protect each other and prevent disruption to our schools, businesses and communities — with a focus on protecting our most vulnerable and the people and communities that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.”

In Oregon, other state and federal requirements, such as those for health care settings, public transit and other specialized settings, will remain in place for now.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322.

Sheila Hagar has written for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin since 1998. Sheila covers health, social services and city government in Milton-Freewater, Athena and Weston in the Walla Walla Valley.

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