Washington mandates masks in public statewide as COVID-19 cases rise

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Washington Gov. Jay Inslee speaking at a 2019 event in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Monica Nickelsburg)

Washington state will require all residents to wear face coverings in public to slow the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Tuesday. The mask mandate takes effect Friday and does not apply to children under the age of 5.

Inslee is issuing stricter requirements for Yakima County, where the coronavirus is spreading rapidly and hospitals are at maximum capacity. Yakima businesses will be forced to require customers to wear masks or face closure by the state.

In King County, home to Seattle and surrounding communities, everyone is currently “strongly urged” but not required to wear masks indoors or in outdoor public spaces when within 6 feet of others.

Inslee’s new order requires a mask in indoor public spaces and outdoors where 6-feet of distance is not possible. Lack of compliance could result in a misdemeanor. It does not apply to people whose health could be negatively impacted by covering their faces. Certain situations are also exempt, like eating at a restaurant.

California issued similar mask rules last week.

Washington has more than 28,870 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 1,276 deaths, according to the latest state numbers. Though most rising cases are in other regions of the state, like Yakima and Spokane, King County’s numbers have been rising as the region’s economy re-opens.

More than 400 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Seattle and King County for the week ended June 20, up nearly 70% from the week before, according to GeekWire’s calculations from data reported by Public Health – Seattle & King County.

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