OLYMPIA — In a news conference Tuesday, June 23, Gov. Jay Inslee announced face masks will be mandatory in indoor spaces starting Friday, June 26.
The order came days after California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a similar policy in his state. The Washington statewide order requires masks be worn in public spaces such as stores, offices and restaurants. People must also wear masks outside if they cannot stay 6 feet apart.
There are exemptions for people with certain disabilities or health conditions, people who are deaf or hard of hearing and children under the age of 5, though the Washington State Coronavirus Response website said the state still encourages children aged 3-5 wear a face covering if possible.
When seated at a restaurant or recreating alone, people can remove their masks.
People do not need to wear a cloth face covering in their own homes with only people from their household, or when people are alone in their cars. People do not need to wear masks when they are outdoors and people are far apart.
More details will be made available after Washington State Health Secretary John Wiesman issues the final order.
"Cloth face masks protect other people from getting covid-19 from us when we talk, cough or sneeze," according to the Coronavirus Response website. "Between 20-40 percent of people with covid-19 don't show any symptoms but can still spread the virus to others. Recent research suggests wearing a face covering can significantly reduce the incidence of covid-19."
Face masks are the best defense to prevent the spread of covid-19, short of a vaccine or cure, according to the site.
Department of Health Assistant Secretary Lauren Jenks talked about the benefits of masks in a Monday, June 22 update.
Some researchers compared countries that promoted face masks as part of their early response to covid-19 to countries, such as the U.S., that did not, Jenks wrote. The countries that promoted face masks ended up with fewer cases than the countries that did not.
"The virus that causes covid-19 is likely spread by droplets that you exhale when you are normally breathing, as well as when you are talking, singing, coughing or sneezing," Jenks said. "These droplets can float in the air and infect people who are near you."
This is more likely if people are within 6 feet in an indoor space with poor ventilation.
A cloth face covering helps to prevent those droplets from hanging in the air. The effectiveness of mask wearing increases if everyone in a room is wearing a mask, Jenks wrote.
Wearing a cloth face covering is not likely to restrict a person's oxygen or make a person breathe too much carbon dioxide. But if a person feels dizzy or light headed while wearing a mask, or has any trouble breathing, they should sit down and remove their mask. If it continues, the person should call 911, Jenks wrote.