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Trio of Washington counties issue directive for wearing masks in public

A mask directive went into effect this week in King County. (MyNorthwest photo)

King County issued a face covering directive that took effect Monday, encouraging all residents to wear a mask or cloth face covering over their nose and mouth when in public settings to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Now, other counties in Washington state are following suit.

Can new mask directives help slow the spread of virus?

Whatcom County issued a local health officer directive Monday that “directs everyone to wear cloth face coverings while in any public indoor and outdoor locations where a person will be within six feet of someone who they don’t live with.” This directive takes effect Friday, May 22.

San Juan County also has an order in effect for individuals to wear face coverings over their nose and mouth in public indoor settings. This will be mandatory in San Juan County inside businesses when the county moves to Phase 2 of the governor’s ‘Safe Start’ plan.

While cloth face coverings don’t offer full protection against the virus, wearing a mask in public is one of the tools we have to reduce the spread.

“We are at a precarious moment in our battle against this virus,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said following the announcement of the face covering directive.

This is one step everyone can take to protect themselves, each other, the essential workers, and to help slow the spread of the virus, he said.

“It is a sign of our mutual concern for each other,” Constantine added.

Health officials warn that wearing a face covering does not reduce the importance of good hygiene practices, like washing your hands, nor does it mean that we can drop the social distancing measures.

How to make your own protective mask

Droplets that contain the virus can be blocked by cloth face coverings, as Whatcom County notes in its directive, and since people with COVID-19 can be asymptomatic, the spread can happen before someone shows symptoms or knows they are sick.

For a list of specific places where masks or face coverings should be worn for Whatcom County residents, visit this website.

Similar to King County’s directive, other directives state that individuals with disabilities that make it difficult to wear or remove a mask, anyone who has been advised by a medical professional not to wear a mask, and young children do not need to wear a face covering.

N95 masks and medical-grade surgical masks should still be reserved for front line workers. For these directives, a homemade cloth mask, scarf, or bandanna is appropriate as long as it covers your nose and mouth.

Pierce and Snohomish counties have not yet issued an official health directive to wear masks, though the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention does encourage people to wear face coverings. Read more about how and when to wear face coverings from the CDC here.

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