Hell explain more at 1 pm today.
Judging by the CDC's new standards, Inslee thinks the state as a whole will emerge from the "high-risk category" by March 11. Lester Black

[Eds note: This post was originally published at 11 am today. I'm re-upping it following the governor's 1 pm press conference, which added a little more context to this decision.]

The governors of Washington, Oregon, and California announced a plan to lift indoor mask mandates on March 12, which is a little more than a week earlier than WA had originally planned. (California still plans to lift requirements on masking in businesses on March 1, but the state pushed up its directive to lift them in schools and child cares facilities to March 12.)

"This was the result of discussions over the weekend between the states and their public health leaders after reviewing the new CDC guidance," said a spokesperson for Governor Jay Inslee.

Meanwhile, Public Health Seattle & King County will go along with the state and lift its restrictions on March 12, too, the department said in a blog post.

The new CDC guidance, released Friday, directed public health authorities to consider the number of COVID hospitalizations, the number of available hospital beds, and the number of COVID cases per 100,000 rather than solely COVID cases per 100,000 when deciding when to impose or lift restrictions. In a tweet on Friday, Inslee said his office was "evaluating" the federal agency's new approach and would have more to say this week.

Inslee initially planned to lift most masking restrictions on March 21, citing a projection from the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) showing hospital admissions trailing off sometime in the middle of next month:

I guess March 12 basically falls somewhere in that gray area
I guess March 12 basically falls somewhere in that gray area

During the press conference this afternoon, Inslee displayed a map of Washington showing where counties fell along the risk spectrum according to the new CDC guidelines. "We believe we’ll be out of the high-risk category as a state by March 11," he said by way of further explaining the date change:

Careful in Trump country
Careful in Trump country

Later this week or early next week, Inslee added, he'll announce a plan to ensure the state has adequate vaccination, personal protective equipment, and medical care protocols should another variant pop up.

DOH chief Dr. Umair Shah offered a note of caution, saying the "pandemic is not over" and reminding Washingtonians that after the mandate lifts businesses and schools will be free to enforce their own mask policies in the face of sometimes violent anti-masking nutjobs.

Here are the new masking rules that take effect next Saturday, in case you need a refresher:

Still gotta mask up on public transit, in health care settings, and in jails.
Just flip the numbers and you'll get the date right. Still gotta mask up on public transit, in health care settings, and in jails.

The decision to loosen masking requirements in businesses and schools comes as a new study shows that Pfizer's vaccine prevents "severe illness" in kids aged 5 to 11 but "offers virtually no protection against infection" among that age group, likely due to the low amount of vaccine allowable in the dose, according to the New York Times.