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Completed homemade fabric masks (March 2020). Photo courtesy of Jolene McMillan of Ferndale

Statewide mandatory mask wearing order to go into effect tomorrow (Friday)

Every person in Washington in an indoor or outside public space, when unable to physically distance from others, will be legally required to wear a face covering according to an order signed by Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman on June 23rd. The order goes into effect tomorrow, Friday, June 26th.

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As necessary economic activity increases and more people are out in their communities, it is imperative that we adopt further measures to protect all of us. Until a vaccine or cure is developed, this is going to be one of our best defenses.

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee (June 23, 2020)

The Whatcom County Health Department has had a directive in place since May 22nd urging people to wear a cloth face covering when they are in a public space. The directive noted, “Law enforcement will not be involved in the enforcement of this directive.”

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The DOH Secretary’s order warns that citizens could be charged with a misdemeanor for failing to wear a mask as specified under RCW 43.70.130RCW 70.05.070 and WAC 246-100-036. It was reported that Inslee’s office told a Seattle news reporter, “how enforcement is carried out will be up to local law enforcement officials.”

Yesterday’s bulletin from the Washington State Joint Information Center (JIC) said state emergency officials launched a program earlier this month to provide all low-income Washingtonians access to free, reusable cloth face coverings. The state’s Emergency Management Division in partnership with the Department of Enterprise Services purchased 3.6 million cloth facemasks with the goal of distributing 2 to every Washingtonian below 200% of the federal poverty level (e.g. $52,400 for a family of 4).

Whatcom County was to receive approximately 137,700 masks to be distributed under this program according to a JIC news release. People interested in picking up masks under this program are instructed to contact their county’s local emergency managers. Whatcom County emergency managers are listed as the Whatcom County Division of Emergency Management and the Northwest Red Cross Chapter.

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