Most Washingtonians will be required to wear facial coverings starting tomorrow, June 26 under an order issued this week by State Health Secretary John Wiesman. It applies to outdoor and indoor public places with some exceptions.
For Yakima County, where the coronavirus infection rate is 27 times that of far-more-populous King County, Governor Jay Inslee has issued a stricter order. His emergency proclamation bans retailers and other businesses from operating, or allowing customers to enter, unless they are wearing a facial covering to curb the spread of the virus.
Inslee’s order for Yakima County leaves it up to retail employees to enforce the requirement or to call local law enforcement for assistance when necessary.
There are numerous exceptions to the order. They include children under the age of 5; people who are deaf or hard of hearing; people with breathing problems; and customers eating in restaurants. During a media availability earlier this week, Inslee said people more than six feet from someone else outside could remove a facial covering if they preferred. The state recommends that children ages 3 to 5 wear facial coverings but does not require it.
Inslee said it is a misdemeanor to ignore the statewide order, but he is hoping for compliance and doesn’t expect any enforcement actions. He likened the statewide order to a matter of health etiquette but added that businesses that failed to comply were in danger of losing their operating licenses.
Inslee and Wiesman noted that wearing facial covering is not a substitute for other health precautions including frequent hand washing; maintaining a distance of at least six feet from anyone other than a family member; getting tested if you have COVID-19 like symptoms; and staying home if you have a fever or feel sick.
Inslee said he expects the practice of using facial coverings to continue indefinitely.
“Until a vaccine or cure is developed, this is going to be one of our best defenses,” he said.
Wiesman added: “The science is clear that when we use face coverings, we limit the spread of droplets being passed on to others when we talk, cough or sneeze. 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.”