Gov. Inslee announces face coverings to be mandatory statewide
Gov. Inslee announced Tuesday that face coverings will be mandatory statewide, issuing an order that takes effect Friday, June 26.
“We need to remain vigilant, diligent, and resourceful,” to stop this virus, Inslee said.
Unfortunately, the governor reported, there has been an uptick of cases in Washington state as businesses and public places start to reopen.
Inslee noted that Washingtonians were committed and disciplined when businesses had to be shut down early in the pandemic response to maintain social distancing. As we have reopened our economy, the same social distancing strategy is not as available to us, the governor said. As a result, cases are rising, as is the number of people that one person infects.
“In Yakima County, which is the epicenter for this virus in the state of Washington, the health care system, because of COVID-19 infections, is so stressed that there is no room at the hospital in Yakima County,” Inslee said.
“We do not want to see that condition spread across the state of Washington,” he added.
Due to the rise in cases across the state, Inslee announced that Washington is adopting a new strategy.
“Today, we are adopting an additional and new strategy regarding the use of facial coverings in the state of Washington,” he said.
Only a third of people were wearing face coverings a couple weeks ago in Yakima County, Inslee said, and that’s now risen to about 60% of people.
“This is encouraging. It shows that we can adopt measures that can actually reduce the transmission rate of this virus,” Inslee said.
“But we know that this issue is much bigger than Yakima County,” he added. “So that is why today I’m joined by Secretary of Health John Wiesman, who is signing a public health order mandating the use of facial coverings across the state of Washington.”
Willful violation of this order is a misdemeanor, Inslee said. Enforcement could be used, he clarified, but he does not believe it will be necessary.
There are a few exceptions to this mandate, including kids under 2 years of age and those with a medical condition that would make it difficult to wear a mask.
Masks or face coverings must be worn indoors, in public settings, and outdoors when you are unable to remain six feet away from others.
A cloth face covering includes anything from a scarf to a bandanna to a cloth face covering with a band that goes around the back of your head or behind your ears. Face coverings should cover your nose and mouth, Wiesman said, and there should be no holes or tears in the fabric.
“Wearing face coverings in public is another measure we can all do to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” Wiesman said. “… I’ve said many times throughout these things that life was going to be different. And this is part of our different lives right now while the COVID virus is around.”
“We simply have to take these different measures right now,” he added. “All of these are critical steps to keep those around us safe, keep businesses open, and restart our economy.”
Find additional guidance on cloth face masks from the Washington State Department of Health here.