Masks to be mandatory statewide starting Friday, June 26
Statewide, wearing a face covering will be mandatory starting Friday, June 26 for both indoor and outdoor settings, government officials announced Tuesday.
Face coverings, such as masks, will be required for all residents ages five and up. Masks are not recommended for children 2 and under.
Gov. Jay Inslee said it is "likely" the mandate will be in force until a vaccine or cure for COVID-19 is developed.
Not wearing a face covering is a misdemeanor, however police officers won't be spending time tracking down scofflaws.
COVID-19, the disease from the new coronavirus, "remains a serious threat," state Secretary of Health John Wiesman said. Twenty to 40 percent of cases are asymptomatic, meaning someone carries the virus but doesn't show it.
"Think of this as a new part of the etiquette in this state," Inslee said.
The legal requirement can be waived for people who have a medical reason not to wear a mask. Outside of that, face coverings are required, including outdoors when six feet apart cannot be maintained -- such as a bus stop.
In Snohomish County, the latest two-week rolling period graph, dated to June 20, says the county has exceeded 25 cases per 100,000. It's at 25.7 per 100,000 as of June 20. Additionally, between June 21 and June 23's reported case numbers, there were 107 new COVID-19 cases in two days, according to Snohomish Health District figures.
Scientific studies show masks help prevent the transmission of COVID-19, health officials pointed out during a news conference Tuesday.
However, the statewide mandate was not prompted solely by the situation in Yakima County, where cases spiked. It's the state's overall situation. Statewide, the reproduction numbers of the virus have surpassed the safety baseline ratio of 1::::-to-1 which is being used to determine the virus's spread. Both Eastern Washington and Western Washington have gone above the 1-to-1 ratio. Western Washington crested past the benchmark last week.
"Transmission, we believe, relates to personal behavior," Inslee said, and gatherings have a factor to the case numbers.
All of the state's existing requirements against gatherings remain intact with the state mask mandate. For Snohomish County and other counties in Inslee's Phase 2 of his "Safe Start" plan, this means not gathering with more than five individuals a week from outside your household.
Wearing a mask also helps prevent the spread of germs by blocking people from touching their faces after touching an infected surface, Dr. John Lynch, an infectious diseases doctor at Harborview Medical Center, said.
Faye Guenther, the CEO of the grocery workers' union, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), also spoke at a news conference Tuesday. "Our shared sacrifice will" help all of Washington, Guenther said.
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