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caption: Union Bar customers in Seattle celebrate Washington state's reopening at 12:01 a.m. on June 30, 2021. Bars were allowed to return to 100 percent capacity and were then free to lift mask requirements for vaccinated patrons.
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Union Bar customers in Seattle celebrate Washington state's reopening at 12:01 a.m. on June 30, 2021. Bars were allowed to return to 100 percent capacity and were then free to lift mask requirements for vaccinated patrons.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Kate Walters

A 'new normal': What Washington's reopening means for you

After more than a year, Washington state officially opened on June 30.

People welcomed the reopening and lifting of strict pandemic restrictions just after midnight at Union Bar in Seattle, counting down and cheering in a scene more familiar at New Year's Eve celebrations.

But in the light of day, folks may still have some questions about what exactly "reopening" the state actually means for them.

KUOW's Eilís O’Neill joined Morning Edition host Angela King for a refresher.

Angela King: So, what exactly has been reopened?

Eilís O’Neill: The biggest change is that restaurants and bars can now operate at full capacity.

There aren’t many restrictions left on any event or business that serves fewer than 10,000 people at a time.

People no longer have to wear masks in public places if they’re fully vaccinated, unless an individual business requires it.

And Anthony Anton, with the Washington Hospitality Association, says something else is coming back also: salt shakers and ketchup bottles, which have largely been missing as restaurants have taken extra precautions for patrons and staff.

King: Does this mean I don’t have to wear a mask at work today?

O’Neill: It depends on your employer.

Employers are allowed to let fully vaccinated employees come to work without a mask. But they’re also allowed to require masks for all employees regardless of vaccination status.

And employees are always allowed to wear a mask if they choose to do so.

King: What about on the bus?

O’Neill: You do have to wear a mask on the bus.

Everyone, whether or not they’re vaccinated, has to wear a mask in health care settings, homeless shelters and public transportation — that includes Washington state ferries.

King: Does my kid have to wear a mask at school or camp?

O’Neill: Masks are still required in schools, childcare and day camps. Because the vaccine isn’t available to anyone under 12 yet.

The rules for overnight camps are complicated, so you should contact your specific camp.

caption: Staff at Union Bar in Seattle put chairs back at the bar after Washington state officially reopened at 12:01 a.m. on June 30, 2021.
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Staff at Union Bar in Seattle put chairs back at the bar after Washington state officially reopened at 12:01 a.m. on June 30, 2021.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Kate Walters

King: How do we know that everyone who isn’t wearing a mask is really vaccinated?

O’Neill: We don’t.

Businesses aren’t required to check vaccination status, so there’s no way to be sure that unmasked people in the grocery store, for example, are fully vaccinated.

Employers are supposed to keep requiring masks until they’ve had a chance to check vaccination status.

So, the idea is that each employee will keep masking up until they’ve presented either proof of vaccination or an affidavit to their employer.

Then they don’t have to wear a mask to work anymore, if that’s their employer’s policy.