Starting Tuesday, fans attending sporting events in King County will be required to wear a mask or face covering, which is a response to the rise of coronavirus cases driven by the COVID-19 delta variant in the state’s most populous county.
In an ordinance passed Thursday, Public Health — Seattle and King County reinstated mask requirements for outdoor events with more than 500 people regardless of vaccination status for everyone 5 and older.
The order also mandates face coverings for residents 5 and older in indoor settings such as arenas and gymnasiums — a requirement that aligns with a statewide mandate that went into place at the end of August.
“With high rates of disease spread, and our health care system straining to keep up, it is time to take additional steps to keep ourselves and our communities safe,” the health agency said.
The county noted 67% of King County residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 while approximately 750,000 residents in the county are unvaccinated, including roughly 320,000 who are eligible.
King County, which includes Seattle, is home to about 2.2 million people.
The Seattle-area teams most affected by King County’s new mask ordinance include the Mariners, Seahawks and Sounders as well as teams at the University of Washington, Seattle University and Seattle Pacific University.
Washington football opens its season Saturday at Husky Stadium. While the University of Washington’s athletics department has yet to implement COVID-19 regulations for the stadium, spokesperson Jay Hilbrands said Thursday that county indoor and outdoor mask mandates will start to be enforced next week.
Fans attending games in Seattle will have to come equipped with a mask to games starting next week. The Mariners next home game is Sept. 10 followed by the Sounders on Sept. 11, UW football plays its first game under the mandate Sept. 18, and the Seahawks host the Titans in their season home opener Sept. 19.
The WNBA’s Storm, which plays home games at Everett’s Angel of the Winds Arena, requires face masks. And the NWSL’s OL Reign has a face covering policy for all indoor spaces during matches at Tacoma’s Cheney Stadium.
Fans at outside arenas can be at risk of contracting COVID-19, even if it’s slightly lower risk than at indoor venues. Dr. Janet Baseman, a professor at the University of Washington’s epidemiology department, said sitting outside in a crowd brings a considerably higher risk of transmission than other outside activities, such as hiking at a local park, because of the delta variant’s contagious traits. However, she said following the new guidelines will go a long way toward protecting the general public.
“We’re not going to be on this upward trajectory forever,” Baseman said. “But there are these things we’re going to need to do in the meantime so that we can keep as many people safe as possible, keep our health-care systems functioning as best we can … and just kind of getting us over the hump until we can be on a downward trajectory and get our cases down.”
Seattle Times reporter Andy Yamashita contributed to this report.