Coronavirus: Statewide mandatory face covering order now in effect

OLYMPIA, Wash. — The statewide mandatory face covering order announced by Gov. Jay Inslee earlier this week is now in effect.

“As we have reopened our economy, as we have shedded some of our social distancing, we are now experiencing higher activity of our virus,” Inslee said Tuesday.

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Inslee also pointed out the surge of cases in Yakima County where the hospitals are so stressed that they're sending COVID-19 patients to other hospitals in Seattle and other places.

“And we do not want to see that condition spread across the state of Washington. So today we are adopting an additional and new strategy regarding the use of facial coverings in the state of Washington,” Inslee added.

There are exceptions for people younger than 5 years old and those who can't wear them for health reasons.

The infection rate is going up across Washington and anywhere between 20-40% of cases are spread by people who don't even know they are sick.

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“The required wearing of face coverings will apply when we are inside of or in line to enter any indoor public space, seeking healthcare services, waiting for or riding public transportation, while outdoors when keeping a physical distance of six feet from others who are not in our household is impossible,” said Secretary John Wiesman of the Washington State Department of Health.

The new mandate builds on a requirement for all workers in the state that went into effect June 8.

The question of masks has been politicized but Inslee said it's about using tools to get the infection rate down.

“I think of these face coverings in some sense as a statement. It’s a statement that when you wear it, it means you care about people,” Inslee said.

Inslee also said people who willfully violate the new mandate might face a misdemeanor.

Watch a full replay of Inslee’s Tuesday news conference below: