Starting Friday, individuals in Washington state who don’t wear face masks in public could face a misdemeanor charge, Gov. Jay Inslee announced.
Washington joined several states Tuesday in instituting a statewide mask mandate amid an uptick in positive coronavirus cases, saying facial coverings are crucial in slowing the spread of the virus.
“I think of these face coverings, in some sense, as a statement,” Mr. Inslee said at a press conference, People reported. “It’s a statement that when you wear it, it means you care about people, because it means you want to reduce the risk that you are going to infect another person.”
Mr. Inslee said the order requires people to wear masks in indoor spaces as well as outdoor spaces if social distancing rules cannot be followed.
“Willful violation of this order is tantamount to a misdemeanor,” he said.
Individuals who are exempt from the order include children younger than 5 and those who are deaf or hard of hearing.
The move came after Yakima County, located just southeast of Seattle, reported a massive shortage in both intensive care and non-intensive care beds.
“The health care system, because of COVID-19 infections, is so stressed, that there is no room at the hospital in Yakima County. There are no rooms available to people for this treatment in Yakima County,” the governor said, CBS News reported. “That means that patients are having to be shipped by ambulance outside of Yakima County to Seattle and other places. … We do not want to see that condition spread across the state of Washington.”