OLYMPIA – Businesses in Washington are now required to refuse service to customers who don’t wear facial coverings, under a statewide order that took effect Tuesday and was issued in response to a spike in the number of new coronavirus cases.
Inslee announced the new mandate last week. It prohibits allowing a customer to enter a business, or conducting business with a customer if they are not wearing a facial covering in any public space, indoor our outdoors.
He said he wants to avoid having to roll back economic reopenings, as some other states have done in the face of rising cases.
“This is what we can do to keep our businesses open and continue to open more,” Inslee said at a news conference, wearing a Seattle Mariners mask.
Violations are a gross misdemeanor and businesses risk fines and losing their business license if they don’t comply, though the governor’s office has said they want to focus on education and voluntary compliance. A conservative think tank has already filed a lawsuit against the order questioning the governor’s authority. Inslee said he believed “we are on very firm constitutional and statutory grounds.”
Exemptions exist for people who are deaf or have hearing loss, those who have medical conditions that preclude them from wearing a mask and children age 5 and younger. People engaged in recreation alone or with household members and those eating out at restaurants don’t have to wear masks as long as they are properly distanced from others.
As of Tuesday, more than 37,000 people statewide have tested positive for the virus and at least 1,384 have died.
Dr. Kathy Lofy, state health officer, said that while part of the increase is due to an increase in testing, there are also signs that show the disease activity is increasing.
“These worrisome signals are no longer confined to a few hot spots in Eastern Washington but are now being seen unfortunately throughout the state,” she said. “If COVID-19 activity continues to increase throughout Washington during the summer, our hospitals could be full of COVID-19 patients moving into the fall which would position us very poorly for the start of the school year and the anticipated fall wave.”
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