Masks and Face Coverings

Page updated: Friday June 26, 12:25 pm

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Starting June 26, 2020, a statewide order requires individuals to wear a face covering in indoor public spaces such as stores, offices and restaurants in Washington State. The order also requires face coverings outdoors when you can’t stay six feet apart from others.

Learn more about these requirements from the Washington State Department of Health and the Washington State Coronavirus Response website

Why Wear a Face Covering

Face coverings are an additional tool we can use to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community. They protect others by blocking droplets that contain the virus from spreading to others when someone with the infection coughs, sneezes, or speaks.

Face coverings do not replace the need for frequent handwashing or social distancing measures.

Where You Need To Wear A Face Covering

Washington State residents and visitors must wear face coverings in most public settings. Wear a face covering when you are at any indoor or outdoor public space where you may be within six feet of someone who does not live with you.

Public spaces include:

  • Stores that sell food and beverages, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience stores, and farmer’s markets.
  • Retail stores, such as auto supply stores, hardware stores, and garden stores. 
  • Restaurant take-out businesses. Employees who prepare, carry out, and deliver food must wear masks.
  • Buses, rideshares, and other forms of public transportation.
  • Workplaces for manufacturing, agriculture, construction, and other trades.
  • Outdoor public settings when you cannot maintain six feet of distance between yourself and others.

This order will remain in effect until it is repealed or replaced by the Secretary of Health, or until it is ended by the Governor.

Who Should Wear a Face Covering

Everyone is required to wear face coverings in public settings unless they are in one of the following groups:

  • Children younger than five years old:
    • Children who are younger than two years old should never wear face coverings due to risk of suffocation. 
    • It is strongly recommended that children who are two to four years old use face coverings in public settings with the assistance and close supervision of an adult. 
  • Persons with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a face covering. This includes, but is not limited to, persons with a medical condition for whom wearing a face covering could obstruct breathing, who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance.

What Kind of Face Coverings to Use

Face coverings are also called cloth masks, face coverings, or face masks. You can use:

  • Cloth face mask
  • Scarves
  • Bandanas 

Face coverings should fit snugly over your nose and mouth. Do not use medical masks or N95 respirators. These should be saved for healthcare workers and people who have special health needs.  The CDC has sew, and no sew, instructions for making your own face covering. If you would rather purchase a face covering there are a variety online retail options

For more information see this document about what type of face covering to use.

How to Properly Wear Face Coverings 

  • Your mask should cover your nose and mouth at all times.
  • Always wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before you put on a face covering and after removing it.
  • Change your face covering when it gets moist.
  • Wash your face covering after each use.

Learn more about how to appropriately wear a face covering here: 

Additional guidance on using face coverings is available from the Washington State Department of Health.

Where to Get a Face Covering If You Can’t Buy One

Whatcom Unified Command has partnered with the North Sound Accountable Community of Health to distribute 40,000 cloth masks to our community’s most vulnerable residents. If your agency serves individuals who are low income and reside in Whatcom County, Lummi Reservation, or Nooksack Reservation, you can request cloth masks on this form. 

If you are an individual in need of a mask, please contact your local food bank or social service provider. 

Whatcom Unified Command has already distributed roughly 137,000 masks to social service partners throughout Whatcom County who have, and will continue to, distribute masks to their clients and subsidiary agencies. The distribution includes agencies that provide direct service or support to populations that are vulnerable or low-income, such as:

  • Food banks
  • Lummi Nation and Nooksack Tribe
  • All public school districts (distributed by Bellingham School District)
  • Whatcom Homeless Service Center
  • Council on Aging
  • Opportunity Council, and
  • Sea Mar Community Health Center


Information for Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Deafblind Community Members

This directive affects community members who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deafblind in different ways than others. We’ve compiled resources to explain how the directive applies to you if you are deaf, hard of hearing, or deafblind.

Guidance For Businesses & Employers

Starting June 8, all employees are required to wear a cloth facial covering unless they work completely alone or the job has no in-person interaction.

Employers must provide cloth facial coverings to employees, unless a higher level of protection is required by their job duties. Employees may choose to wear their own facial covering at work, but it must meet the minimum level of protection based on their exposure risk. 

The minimum level of protection required for workers, based on exposure risk, can be found in this chart from L&I. Additional guidance from L&I about when employees should use cloth face coverings and when they are required to use respirators can be found in this publication.

Businesses must also post signage strongly encouraging customers and clients to wear cloth face coverings.

  • You can find signs to post at your business or place of employment in the upper right side of this page.

Businesses in Whatcom County are not mandated to require customers to use face coverings.

Enforcement

We strongly urge people to comply with this State Health Order because it is an effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Members of the public are required by law to comply with this order. Noncompliance with this order may be subject to criminal penalties pursuant to RCW 43.70.130(7), RCW 70.05.120(4) and WAC 246-100-070(3).

If you see an individual who is not wearing a face covering practice compassion and remember that some people have conditions or circumstances that would make wearing a cloth face covering difficult or dangerous. Just wear your face covering, stay six feet away, and wash your hands often.  

Businesses who are not following this order can be reported to the Washington State Department of Health COVID-19 call center hotline at 1-800-525-0127 (press #) from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday - Friday, and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday - Sunday. Language assistance is available. 

Please do not call 911 to report non-compliance of this order, only call 911 in an emergency.