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New outdoor mask mandate for large crowds starts in Washington

Monday was the start of the rule requiring everyone wear a face mask at events with 500 or more people, regardless of vaccination status.

VANCOUVER, Wash. — A new mask rule is now in effect in Washington requiring everyone wear a mask in any large outdoor event with 500 or more people, regardless if they're vaccinated for COVID-19.

The mandate started Monday and includes masking up at big high school football games. Evergreen Public School’s McKenzie stadium is the largest in Vancouver and holds up to 5000 fans. It's the home field for Evergreen, Heritage, Mountain View and Union high schools. The district said it has been communicating with families about the new mandate ahead of a football game there this Friday. 

“We're hoping that people will have the spirit of cooperation," said Gail Spolar, Director of Communications for Evergreen Public Schools. "They're there to watch a great football game and this is just one of those ways that we can continue to play and allow people to come in and watch."

Clark County Public Health Director and Health Officer Dr. Alan Melnick said there is good reason for the new mandate.

“We're dealing with the delta variant, it's significantly more transmissible than previous versions of the virus and our case rates right now are ridiculously high,” said Melnick. 

RELATED: Delta variant causing COVID-19 cases to spread 'like wildfire' in Washington

New COVID cases in Clark County are up ten-fold since early summer.

Melnick said masks can help stop the spread at big gatherings like concerts but enforcement is a challenge.

“The problem with a lot of these events is how do you enforce masking. People take off their masks if there's singing involved or yelling, people may do that,” Melnick added. 

That could certainly be a temptation when the rock band KISS plays the RV Inn Style Resorts Amphitheater in Ridgefield later this week on Sept. 17 as their tour comes to Clark County.

Live Nation runs the 18,000-seat venue and on Monday, it said it will continue to comply with all the rules, including the new mask mandate.

But the bigger the crowd, the harder it can be to enforce. Dr. Melnick has some advice about large gatherings.

“Certainly if you're going to go to one of these events and you see people who are not masking, I would make a U-turn and get the heck out of there,” he said. 

Melnick added that vaccination, masking and social distancing are the best defenses against the virus. 

RELATED: Judge orders end to 'disruptive' anti-mask protests outside schools in Vancouver