King County will be required to wear face masks indoors next week

May 12 2020, 10:54 am

As Washington continues getting closer towards reopening its economy, Seattle and King County Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin, along with King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan announced a new health officer directive urging face coverings in all indoor public places.

This directive will go into effect on May 18 and urges people to use face coverings over their nose and mouth at all indoor or confined outdoor public settings.

Settings where masks are encouraged include grocery stores, restaurants and retail, indoor workplaces, buses, rideshares, and taxis. Face coverings need not be worn outside unless appropriate physical distancing cannot be practiced, such as at farmers markets.

“Wearing a face covering can help prevent the spread of infection to others by blocking infectious droplets from spreading when someone with the infection coughs, sneezes, and speaks. Individuals can be infected and contagious before or even without developing symptoms,” stated a media release from the City of Seattle.

While metro operators will not turn away passengers without face coverings, operators and riders on King County Metro will be required to wear face coverings.

Recorded reminders will play on Metro vehicle public address systems informing riders of the face covering policy, while security officers communicate public health guidance to riders who are not wearing a face covering or not staying apart from other passengers.

Exceptions to the health directive include children, people with disabilities, deaf individuals who use facial movements as part of communication, and others. There is no penalty for not wearing a face covering.

“We must ask people to take the steps, informed by public health, to once again change everyday life in service of the health of all. By doing this one thing – wearing a face covering in public settings – we can do more to protect our most vulnerable, and increase the odds that the limited resumption of activities will be successful,” said Constantine in a media release.

Because face masks such as N95 respirators continue to be reserved for health care workers, residents should use fabric coverings such as cloth masks, scarves or bandanas. An easy CDC approved guide on how to make your own coverings can be found here.