A statewide mandate that requires people who are in public and cannot distance more than six feet to wear cloth face coverings will go into effect on Friday, June 26. The public health order, a legal requirement subject to a misdemeanor, was announced by governor Jay Inslee in a press conference on Tuesday, June 23.
“As necessary economic activity increases and more people are out in their communities, it is imperative that we adopt further measures to protect us all,” Inslee said in the June 23 press conference.
Washington State Department of Health (WSDH) secretary John Wiesman signed the order on June 23.
According to the WSDH, a face covering is defined as fabric that covers both the mouth and nose.
People who are exempt from wearing a face mask include those two-years-old or younger, people with disabilities that prevent them from comfortably wearing face coverings or communicating while wearing a mask, people with respiratory conditions and people who have been told by a medical, legal or behavioral health professional they are exempt, according to a WSDH release. People do not need to wear a mask when exercising outdoors with “plenty of space,” eating in public or while in the car.
Face mask coverings help provide a barrier to prevent potential Covid-19 respiratory droplets from traveling through the air, according to the CDC.
The mandatory face mask requirement comes after Yakima County was mandated to wear facial coverings as the county experiences the state’s second-highest number of Covid-19 cases at 6,435 cases, overwhelming hospital capacity and requiring the transport of patients outside the county.
“This is something that we saw in New York, it is something we saw in Italy and it is something that we are seeing in Yakima County today,” Inslee said. “And we do not want to see that condition spread across the state of Washington.”
As of June 22, Whatcom County had 521 cases of Covid-19 with 52 hospitalizations and 40 deaths. Of the 15,684 tests done in the county, 3.3 percent have been positive. Washington had 29,386 cases with 4,067 hospitalizations and 1,284 deaths.