OLYMPIA — Moving to further blunt the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday (June 23) said people in Washington must wear a mask or cloth face covering in any indoor or outdoor public setting.
The order will take effect Friday, June 26, and will apply to most situations when people are unable to keep 6 feet away from others in public places — be it standing at a bus stop, waiting in line at a grocery store or hoofing it on a crowded sidewalk.
If widely followed, the mandate could be the best weapon available in the state’s battle to contain the virus responsible for a pandemic that’s claimed nearly 1,300 lives in the state since February, Inslee said.
The mask mandate could be in place until a vaccine or cure is developed, Inslee said at a televised news conference. Recent scientific models show widespread mask wearing can reduce the incidence of COVID-19 cases by as much as 80%, he said. There is also mounting evidence in other countries of a correlation between widespread mask usage and diminished spread of the virus, he said.
You won’t have to don a face covering while eating in restaurants or when alone with household members if you are able to maintain a 6-foot social distance.
There will be exemptions for the deaf or hard of hearing when they are actively communicating with someone else. The order does not require children under age 5 to wear them. However, it is still strongly recommended for those ages 3 to 5.
Workers in Washington have been required to wear a mask or face covering since June 8, except when working by themselves in an office, or at a job site, or if they have no in-person interactions. Employers must provide cloth facial coverings, although employees can wear their own if it meets the minimum requirements.
Inslee also ordered additional restrictions in Yakima County, where cases are surging far faster than the rest of the state. He said June 20 that the infection rate there is 28 times that of King County. Yakima County is one of only three counties in Washington that has remained in Phase 1 lockdown.
Inslee’s proclamation, which he first announced June 20, requires all customers to wear a mask when entering a business, even if they are in an area that is outdoors. Also, companies must not allow any customers to enter without a face covering.
The orders also will take effect June 26.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.