Washington State Governor Jay Inslee announced Tuesday a state mandate requiring facial coats for residents in public spaces amid a recent surge in coronavirus cases.
The legal requirement will take effect on Friday and includes any interior public space, as well as outdoor areas when social distancing measures cannot be maintained. The order covers the entire state of Washington.
“As the necessary economic activity increases and there are more people in their communities, it is imperative that we take additional steps to protect all of us,” Inslee told reporters on Tuesday. “Until a vaccine or cure is developed, this will be one of our best defenses.”
WASHINGTON GOV. INSLEE ANNOUNCES EXPANDED CORONAVIRUS OPENING CAPACITY FOR FAITH-BASED SERVICES
Scientists and health officials have urged wearing masks to limit the spread of COVID-19 and protect those most vulnerable to the virus, especially given the way the virus can be spread by people with no visible symptoms. While it has been recommended in the past, more states and cities have begun requiring facial coatings amid a recent increase in cases.
The order follows an announcement Saturday of a mandatory mask proclamation for Washington’s Yakima County starting this week, which was in response to reports of cases potentially overwhelming the county’s healthcare system. County businesses were told they could not serve anyone who enters without a mask, among other measures.
Following reports of cases increasing in additional counties, Inslee and Health Secretary John Wiesman decided to expand the mask requirement statewide.
Certain exemptions to the mandate include those with certain medical conditions and children under the age of 5.
Residents can remove the mask when eating at a restaurant, communicating with someone who is hard of hearing, or outdoors in public areas “as long as they keep a six-foot distance from people who are not members of their household.”
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A state order violation is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in prison and a fine of up to $ 1,000, an Inslee spokesman said, according to Seattle’s Q13 FOX. Violations of the Yakima County order are punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a fine of up to $ 5,000.
Inslee said the new rule will not exempt people of color after a county in Oregon was reported to allow non-white people to bypass the mask requirement due to “greater concerns about racial profiling and bullying.”
Given the ability to save someone you love or even a stranger you will never meet, we hope that, on the scale of things to think about, that will lean towards the scales toward [the] safety of everyone around you, ”he said, according to the Seattle Times.
He added that following the order could help reopen the economy sooner as areas move forward with their gradual reopening plans.
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“Masking is not just something that saves lives, it can save economies,” Inslee said. “If we don’t want to reactivate the dial in phases in the counties, we need all of Washington to join us in this effort.”
The state of Washington has seen more than 29,386 confirmed cases of coronavirus and at least 1,284 deaths from the virus as of Wednesday morning, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.