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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Vaccinated or not, Woodward orders city employees to mask up

Aug. 16, 2021 Updated Mon., Aug. 16, 2021 at 10:16 p.m.

Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward talks to media on Sept. 13 at the Spokane Convention Center.  (Libby Kamrowski/The Spokesman-Review)
Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward talks to media on Sept. 13 at the Spokane Convention Center. (Libby Kamrowski/The Spokesman-Review)

All city of Spokane employees will once again be required to wear a mask at work – regardless of whether or not they have been vaccinated.

Mayor Nadine Woodward announced the policy change on Monday amid a communitywide surge in COVID-19 cases attributed to the delta variant.

The new policy applies not only to city employees, but members of the public who enter city facilities. Previously, the city had asked only unvaccinated people to wear a mask.

The policy change comes just two weeks since City Hall officially reopened for the first time in more than a year. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are on the rise, while Spokane’s vaccination rate hovers above 50%.

“We have work to do as a community to get a greater percentage of individuals vaccinated and we are taking this action in protection of city employees, their families, and visitors to city facilities while that happens,” Mayor Nadine Woodward said in a statement on Monday. “This is not a step I take lightly, but one that is necessary after great discussion with members of my cabinet and close review of the latest community and organizational data.”

In its announcement of the new policy, the city said it had experienced a “slight uptick” in COVID-19 cases among its employees recently.

As of last Friday morning, the city had tracked seven new COVID-19 cases among employees last week, and six cases the prior week. Previously, the city had averaged between zero and three cases per week.

“This is not where we hoped to be, but taking action now will limit any potential impact to staffing and service delivery,” Woodward said. “We are leading by example in protection of people and businesses in our community that have already sacrificed so much.”

Woodward did not change the policy when the Centers for Disease Control changed its guidance to recommend that everyone mask up indoors in any area experiencing “substantial” or “high” coronavirus transmission last month. State and local health officials have not mandated, but highly recommend, everyone wear masks .

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