In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, a statewide mandatory face covering order goes into effect in Washington beginning June 26.
The state order requires all people older than 5 years to wear a mask or face covering when in an indoor public space, or in an outside public space when unable to physically distance at least 6 feet from others. The order is in addition to the other COVID-related guidelines all counties must follow in each phase of reopening. Physical distancing, appropriate and regular sanitation actions, and other requirements are still expected from people and businesses.
Gov. Jay Inslee and state Secretary of Health John Weisman announced the statewide order on June 23. At the time, a mandatory mask proclamation was already in place in Yakima County in response to increasing case counts and a potential to overwhelm the county’s health care system. Following reports of cases increasing in additional counties, the governor extended the face covering requirement to include the entire state.
“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 the June 23 press conference. “Until a vaccine or cure is developed, this is going to be one of our best defenses.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests people wear a mask in public settings to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Recent studies show a significant portion of people with coronavirus lack symptoms, and others can transmit the virus before showing symptoms.
There are some exceptions to the statewide order, including for those people deaf or hard of hearing who are communicating with others, or for people with medical conditions that make wearing a mask difficult. Children 3 to 5 years old are recommended, not required, to wear face coverings, and those 2 and under should not wear face coverings.
For more information about the state order, visit the Washington State Coronavirus Response website.