Order goes out: Wear face masks

Washingtonians will soon be required to wear protective face masks in virtually every situation when in public.

The statewide mandatory face covering order that takes effect June 26 was announced this week by Governor Jay Inslee and state Secretary of Health John Wiesman.

The order followed an earlier announcement of a mandatory mask proclamation for Yakima County, in response to reports of increasing COVID-19 case counts and a potential overwhelming of the county’s healthcare system. The mask-up request was extended to the rest of the state after reports of cases also increasing in other counties.

“As necessary economic activity increases and more people are out in their communities, it is imperative that we adopt further measures to protect all of us,” Inslee said. “Until a vaccine or cure is developed, (wearing masks) is going to be one of our best defenses.”

The requirement includes indoor and outdoor public spaces. But as with previous orders, there will be specific exemptions for those who may be adversely impacted by wearing a facial covering. The exemptions include those with certain medical conditions and children under the age of 2 years old, who should not wear a face covering, officials said. Children who are 2, 3 or 4 years old are encouraged, but not required, to wear a face covering in public.

In addition, individuals may remove face coverings under certain circumstances, including while eating or drinking at a restaurant, while communicating with a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, and while outdoors in public areas, provided that a distance of six feet is maintained from people who aren’t members of their household.

“The science is clear that when we use face coverings, we limit the spread of droplets (a way that coronavirus is spread) being passed on to others when we talk, cough or sneeze,” Wiesman said. “While some of us are wearing face coverings in public, we must increase usage to best control the virus. Washington’s strategy to restart the economy and get people back to work will only be successful if, together, we act safely and follow health recommendations.”