Masks will be required statewide starting June 26

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Secretary of Health John Wiesman on Tuesday announced that face coverings will be required statewide starting this Friday, June 26.

The order comes after a Saturday announcement of a mandatory mask proclamation for Yakima County starting this week. The order was in response to reports of increasing case counts and a potential overwhelming of the county’s health care system.

After subsequent reports of cases increasing in additional counties, the governor and Wiesman extended the face covering requirement today to include the entire state of Washington.

“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 during a press conference Tuesday. “Until a vaccine or cure is developed, this is going to be one of our best defenses.”

Starting Friday, every Washingtonian must wear a facial covering when in a public space, as mandated by the public health order signed by Wiesman. This includes both indoor and outdoor public spaces.

“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,” Weisman 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.

As with previous orders, there will be specific exemptions for those who may be adversely impacted by wearing a facial covering. These exemptions include those with certain medical conditions and children under the age of two, who should not wear a face covering. Children aged 2, 3 and 4 are encouraged, but not required, to wear a face covering in public with the assistance and supervision of an adult.

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 6 feet is maintained from people who are not members of their household.

The order is in addition to the other guidelines counties must follow in each phase of reopening. Physical distancing, appropriate and regular sanitation actions and other requirements are still expected from Washingtonians and businesses. Businesses are already required to adopt face coverings or more protective requirements for their employees. In cases where local officials or other agencies have also adopted face covering requirements, the more protective requirement must be followed.

Face coverings will help protect the health of essential workers and those returning to the workforce as counties advance phases. Such a requirement will be much more effective when the majority of the population wears masks.

As more counties progress through the phased approach to re-opening, it’s even more important to follow the order and phase guidelines in order to help reopen the economy.

“Masking up is not just something that saves lives, it can save economies,” Inslee said. “If we don’t want to turn the dial back on phases in counties, we need every Washingtonian to join us in this effort.”

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