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Governor Inslee Ends the COVID-19 Emergency

On November 1, Washington State officially started down 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 terminating all outstanding proclamations associated with COVID-19 effective at 11:59 PM 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 the termination of the state of emergency would have on local governments. The new proclamations contained no surprises and do not change anything I wrote previously. However, the purpose of this blog is to reiterate and more fully detail those 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 the healthcare, childcare, and education settings) was lifted by Proclamation 21-14.6. Therefore, absent a local policy requiring vaccination, employees do not have be vaccinated against COVID-19, with the following exceptions:

  • Healthcare providers that participate in Medicare or Medicaid programs must still comply with federal vaccination requirements. Review my October 6 blog for more information on this requirement.
  • State employees are still required to be vaccinated against the virus as a condition of employment pursuant to Governor Inslee’s Directive 22-13.1. This mandate is confined to actual employees of state agencies and does not extend to state contractors or volunteers. (Proclamation 21-14.5 did require certain state contractors and volunteers be vaccinated, but that proclamation has been terminated.)   

Face Masks

Although the governor’s proclamations relating to face masks have been terminated, the Washington State Secretary of Health’s Order 20-03.10 (issued on October 27, 2022) continues to require employees and private individuals to wear face masks in the following indoor settings until further notice (with some exceptions): 

  • All health care settings,
  • All long-term care settings; and
  • Correctional and jail facilities when the county in which the facility is located has a medium or high Centers for Disease Control and Prevention‘s COVID-19 level.

The secretary of health has independent authority to issue this face mask mandate, 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 Preventing COVID-19 (which protects an employee’s right to voluntarily wear a mask so long as it doesn’t create a 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).

As well, the local board of health and local health officers have the authority to enact local rules requiring face masks pursuant to RCW 70.05.060 and RCW 70.05.070.

While we are not aware of any local board of health mask requirements in effect at this time, local agencies can, of course, adopt local policies requiring masks for their employees and visitors.

Reporting and Notification Requirements

Some COVID-19-related requirements 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 worksite must report COVID-19 outbreaks of 10 or more employee infections at the workplace or worksite to L&I. The time period for tracking cases starts when two or more cases have occurred within 14 consecutive days of each other and ends when 28 consecutive calendar days have passed without a new infection; or alternatively, any period of time when a state or local health department communicates to the employer that there is a COVID-19 outbreak at the workplace or worksite.
  • All employers must notify employees of COVID-19 exposure if/when it occurs in their workplace.

More information can be found on L&I’s webpage: Reporting and Notification Requirements of HELSA and PPE Usage – Questions & Answers

MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

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About Flannary Collins

Flannary Collins is the managing attorney for MRSC. She first joined MRSC as a legal consultant in August 2013 after serving as assistant city attorney for the city of Shoreline where she advised all city departments on a wide range of issues. Flannary became the managing attorney in 2018. In this role, she manages the MRSC legal team of five attorneys.

At MRSC, Flannary enjoys providing legal guidance to municipalities on all municipal issues, including the OPMA, PRA, and elected officials’ roles and responsibilities. She also serves on the WSAMA Board of Directors as Secretary-Treasurer.