Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.

Is it the right time to lift indoor mask mandates? | Roegner

Mask mandates continue to fall in several other states like New York, Illinois, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and will also change in California and Oregon in the near future. But if you live in Seattle or King County, you will be left with a patchwork of different rules to follow for a few weeks until the statewide requirement for masks indoors will no longer be in effect.

In King County the process of change has already started as restaurants, bars, theaters and gyms will no longer be required to check the vaccination status of their patrons beginning March 1. Part of the reason is that cases and hospitalizations are declining. Also, 87.5 % of King County’s population ages 12 and older has been fully vaccinated. We have been trained to not leave home without our vaccination card or our mask.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced that the state will lift indoor mask mandates on March 12 for schools, child care facilities, grocery stores and many other indoor facilities, but many businesses will still have authority to require their employees and customers to mask up. Masking will still be required for health care facilities, dental offices, prisons, public transit and school buses.

But that raises the question: Is it too soon?

If you live in Seattle or King County, you won’t see much change initially, which raises the next issue: Will it be too confusing to keep track of, and will we be putting masks back on by March 12?

A cynic might also ask the question after training most of us to get shots and boosters and to wear masks: Did Inslee just give in to political pressure as more Republican leaders such as Senate Minority Leader John Braun (R-Centralia) have challenged Inslee’s use of his emergency powers, and asked that Inslee immediately end masking requirements, saying if someone wants to wear a mask in public, it should be by choice, not mandate.

However, that is part of the problem. Masks have become a political divider to the public and are seen as reflections of your political party — and should not be.

In a prudent show of caution, which is needed at this time, King County won’t be lifting its mask mandate for indoor settings until it monitors coronavirus-related metrics and will reassess the mandate in the coming weeks. Also, cities and counties will have the authority to determine their rules, as will school districts. The lack of consistency with differing rules means we could be putting our masks back on by March 12.

I have appreciated Inslee following science rather than politics, unlike the former president. It would have been easy to give in to the political dynamics, but we expect more from the governor. Inslee has been under pressure from school superintendents, and Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal recently called to end the mask requirement while maintaining safety protocols including availability of rapid tests. Reykdal also noted that this move by Inslee does not signal the end to the global virus outbreak, as it only provides some flexibility while many teachers and support staff are more weary of masks coming off at Washington schools.

The head of the teachers union expressed concern that lifting the mask mandate at a time of staff shortages could interrupt learning, especially in low-income areas. School boards can still choose to require students and teachers to wear masks after the mandate ends, and the state Department of Health will update its guidelines for schools the week of March 7 to help districts prepare for the March 12 transition.

And what happens if the next variant isn’t reacting the same way, and is more difficult to manage, and we end up back in our masks? And what about the 25% of the population who will never get a vaccine? I think there are too many variables, not to mention the different rules in each city, to cloud the public’s thinking with changes in wearing masks now.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@kentreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kentreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Opinion

Robert Whale can be reached at robert.whale@auburn-reporter.com.
In search of fairness, morals and good sportsmanship | Whale’s Tales

Ah, the Golden Rule. We all know it: do unto others as… Continue reading

Robert Whale can be reached at robert.whale@auburn-reporter.com.
The key thing is what we do with our imperfections | Whale’s Tales

I have said and done many things of which I am not proud. That is, I am no golden bird cheeping about human frailties from some high branch of superhuman understanding.

Robert Whale can be reached at robert.whale@soundpublishing.com.
Grappling with the finality of an oncologist’s statement | Whale’s Tales

Perhaps my brain injected a bit of humor to cover the shock. But I felt the gut punch.

Cartoon by Frank Shiers
Legislature back in session next week | Cartoon

State lawmakers return Jan. 8 to Olympia.

Cartoon by Frank Shiers
Santa doesn’t drive a Kia | Cartoon

Cartoon by Frank Shiers.

Cartoon by Frank Shiers
Salute to veterans | Cartoon by Frank Shiers

On Veterans Day, honor those who served your country.

File photo
Why you should vote in the upcoming election | Guest column

When I ask my students when the next election is, frequently they will say “November 2024” or whichever presidential year is coming up next.

Robert Whale can be reached at rwhale@soundpublishing.com.
Here’s a column for anyone who loves their dog | Whale’s Tales

It is plain to me in looking at dogs small and large that a decent share of them are exemplars of love on Earth, innocents who love unconditionally and love their chow.

Robert Whale can be reached at rwhale@soundpublishing.com.
Please protect your children from BS spreaders | Whale’s Tales

Among the most useful things I studied in college were debate, and… Continue reading

Email editor@kentreporter.com.
It’s time to change Kent’s City Council elections to districts | Guest column

If you were asked who your city councilmembers are, would you have an answer?

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He is a former president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. Contact thebrunells@msn.com.
Dear government: Hold your horses when regulating trucks | Brunell

Next to gasoline and diesel, natural gas also has the greatest number of refueling stations.