WHEN AM I REQUIRED TO WEAR A FACE MASK OR CLOTH FACE COVERING?
Any of us can carry the virus and not realize we’re spreading it when we talk, cough or sneeze. Face coverings are required statewide in all public spaces because they are effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19, especially when combined with 6 feet of physical distance.
There are three face cover orders in place:
For employers and workers: Washington employers must ensure workers wear face coverings at work in almost all situations. Employers must provide face coverings if workers do not have them. Employers must comply with this order, which is enforced by the Department of Labor & Industries.
For the public: An order from the secretary of health requires Washingtonians to wear face coverings in public spaces and shared spaces, both indoors and outdoors. Examples include hotel or apartment hallways, outdoors where many people are gathered such as parks, playgrounds or popular walking paths, and in a restaurant when not seated and eating. People are individually responsible to comply with this order.
For businesses: A proclamation from Gov. Inslee prohibits businesses from allowing customers to enter without face coverings. Businesses are encouraged to provide alternatives for customers who cannot wear masks. Best practices for businesses is here in English and Spanish).
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Is wearing a face covering safe? It feels hard to breathe when I wear one. While some people have health conditions that make face coverings unsafe, they are safe for nearly all of us, even if they feel uncomfortable at first and take a while to get used to. Public health experts agree face coverings are an important tool in preventing COVID and research is increasingly suggesting widespread use is effective. Make sure your face covering covers your mouth and nose but isn’t overly tight or restrictive. Choose a soft fabric such as cotton knit or use a bandana or scarf if that feels more comfortable.
What should I do if I see someone not wearing a mask? Nothing. Some people have conditions or circumstances that would make wearing a cloth face covering difficult or dangerous. Just wear your mask and stay six feet away.
When do I not have to wear a mask? You do not need to wear a cloth face covering when you are in your own home or in your car, if you are only with people in your own household. You also do not need to wear a cloth face covering when you are exercising outdoors and you have plenty of space. It’s a good idea to keep one in your pocket, though, in case you come across other people you can’t stay six feet away from. And some people may have health conditions or circumstances that make wearing a cloth face covering difficult or dangerous.
I don’t want to make or buy a face covering. Are there other options? Cloth face coverings do not need to be complicated or expensive. Save medical masks and respirators for health care workers and others in high-risk settings. Easy alternative are to use a scarf or any breathable, washable fabric, and wrap it around your face so that a couple layers of fabric are completely covering your mouth and nose.