Washington state to require masks in public in response to COVID-19 concerns
SEATTLE -- Washington state will require people to wear facial coverings in public settings, under a statewide public health order announced Tuesday by Gov. Jay Inslee in response to ongoing COVID-related health concerns.
The order, issued by Secretary of Health John Wiesman, takes effect Friday. The order requires face coverings when people are indoor in a public area, and outdoors in a public area when six feet of physical distancing can't be maintained.
Washington joins several other states that already have statewide mask orders in place, including California, which issued its order last week.
Yakima County, which has been among the areas hardest hit by the outbreak, has even more stringent requirements under a separate proclamation issued by Inslee that also takes effect Friday.
In addition to being covered by the statewide mandate on masks in public, there will now be a legal requirement that prohibits people from entering a place of business - either indoors or outdoors - without first donning a mask.
Under that same proclamation, businesses in the central Washington county are prohibited from allowing a customer to enter a business, or conduct business with a customer in any public space unless the customer is wearing a face covering.
There are exemptions for children under the age of 2 and for people who are deaf or have hearing loss. Facial coverings for children between the ages of 3 and 5 are strongly recommended, but not required under the orders.
People engaged in recreation alone or with household members and those eating out at restaurants wouldn’t have to wear masks as long as they are properly distanced from others.
The statewide order builds on a previous one from Inslee, that - since June 8 - has required workers to wear facial coverings unless they don’t interact with others on the job.
Last month, San Juan County became the first jurisdiction to impose a mask requirement that was enforceable by law, making it a misdemeanor for people to not wear a mask while in public.
Several other jurisdictions - including King and Thurston counties - have issued their own face covering directives or have strongly urged residents to wear masks, though those counties have said that the efforts were focused more on education and that there were no civil or criminal penalties for violators.
A spokesman for Inslee said that violation of the statewide mask order is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and up to a $1,000 fine. Violation of the Yakima County proclamation is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to 364 days in jail and up to a $5,000 fine.