Governor Inslee: Face masks become mandatory in Washington state starting Friday
- Olympia, WA
Face masks are going to become mandatory in the entire state of Washington starting this Friday. 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 has joined several other states that already have statewide mask orders in place, including California, which issued its order last week.
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.
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. The move comes as Washington’s 39 counties are moving through a four-stage reopening plan.
As of Tuesday, 16 counties are in Phase 3, which allows group gatherings of up to 50 people, including sports activities, and allows restaurants to increase capacity to 75 percent. Gyms and movie theaters can reopen at half capacity during this phase. Eighteen counties are currently in Phase 2, which allows restaurants and taverns to reopen at half capacity with limited table sizes, hair and nail salons and barber shops to resume business, and retail stores to reopen for in-store purchases at 30% capacity. It also allows additional outdoor recreation and gatherings with no more than five people outside of a person’s household.
Three counties — Benton, Franklin and Yakima — remain in Phase 1, which only allows essential businesses to be open and limits restaurant service to takeout and delivery and allows limited outdoor recreation.
Two other counties — Chelan and Douglas — are also in a modified Phase 1 of reopening that allows some additional business activity. More than 28,800 people in Washington state have tested positive for the virus and at least 1,276 have died. The virus causes mild to moderate symptoms in most patients, and the vast majority recover. But it is highly contagious and can cause severe illness and death in some patients, particularly the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.