Governor Inslee ends COVID-19 emergency
November 2, 2022
On November 1, Washington State officially began a new path: one in which Washington’s COVID-19 state of emergency is a thing of the past. Governor Inslee issued a series of proclamations on October 28 ending all outstanding proclamations associated with COVID-19 as of 11:59 p.m. on October 31, 2022.
In my October 6 blog, Washington’s COVID-19 State of Emergency Ends October 31: What Does this Mean for Local Governments, I covered the expected impact that ending the state of emergency would have on local governments. The new proclamations contain no surprises and do not change anything I have written previously. However, the purpose of this blog is to reiterate and further detail these impacts.
COVID-19 vaccination requirements
All remaining state proclamations requiring employee vaccinations have been lifted. The last remaining mandate for other types of employees to be vaccinated (namely, in health care, child care and education settings) was lifted by Proclamation 21-14.6. Therefore, in the absence of a local policy requiring vaccination, employees should not be vaccinated against COVID-19, except for the following:
- Health care providers who participate in Medicare or Medicaid must always comply with federal vaccination requirements. See my October 6 blog for more information on this requirement.
- State employees must still be vaccinated against the virus as a condition of employment per Governor Inslee’s Directive 22-13.1. This mandate is limited to actual employees of state agencies and does not extend to contractors or state volunteers. (Proclamation 21-14.5 required certain contractors and state volunteers to be vaccinated, but this proclamation has been terminated.)
Although the Governor’s face mask proclamations have been terminated, Washington State Secretary of Health Order 20-03.10 (issued October 27, 2022) continues to require employees and individuals to wear face masks. face masks in the following indoor environments until further notice (with some exceptions):
- All health establishments,
- All long-term care facilities; and
- Correctional and penitentiary facilities when the county in which the facility is located has a medium or high level of COVID-19 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Secretary of Health has independent authority to issue this face mask warrant, pursuant to the public health authority provided by RCW 43.70.130, RCW 70.05.070 and WAC 246-100-036.
Although face masks are not required in most situations, employers cannot prohibit their employees from voluntarily choosing to wear face masks. See the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) requirements and guidance for the prevention of COVID-19 (which protects an employee’s right to voluntarily wear a mask as long as they do not create safety or security issue) and RCW 49.17. 485, (which protects an employee’s right to wear a face mask during a public health emergency).
Additionally, the local board of health and local health officers have the authority to issue local rules requiring face masks in accordance with RCW 70.05.060 and RCW 70.05.070.
While we are not aware of any sanitary mask requirements in effect at this time, local agencies may, of course, adopt local policies requiring masks for their employees and visitors. For a more detailed explanation of this authority, see the MRSC’s response to this question: Can a local agency issue an order requiring people to wear face masks in public buildings or transit facilities?
Reporting and notification requirements
Certain requirements related to COVID-19 will not end until the federal state of emergency declared by the President is lifted. These include:
- Employers with 50 or more employees at a workplace or construction site should report COVID-19 outbreaks of 10 or more employee infections at the workplace or construction site to L&I. The case tracking period begins when two or more cases have occurred within 14 consecutive days of each other and ends when 28 consecutive calendar days have passed without new infection; or alternatively, any period of time when a state or local health department communicates to the employer that there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in the workplace or workplace.
- All employers must notify employees of exposure to COVID-19 if/when it occurs in their workplace.
More information can be found on the L&I webpage: Declaration and notification requirements for the use of HELSA and PPE – Questions and answers
Please visit the MRSC COVID-19 Governor’s Proclamations and State Guidelines webpage for more information on Governor’s Proclamations (and Terminations).
MRSC is a private, nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible Washington State government agencies can use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.