Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s mask mandate, which requires Washingtonians to wear face coverings in public indoor and many outdoor spaces, went into effect today.
For Clark County residents who cannot afford to buy reusable face coverings, Clark County Regional Emergency Services Agency (CRESA) has an answer: CRESA has more than 216,000 free cloth face coverings available for low-income individuals and families in need.
Local organizations throughout Clark County will distribute the masks to families and individuals who fall below 200-percent poverty level. The federal poverty level is $12,760 for an individual and $26,200 for a family of four.
The county received the face coverings Monday, June 22, from the state’s Emergency Operations Center, and stated in a press release that the masks are “intended to help protect low-income families and individuals to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community.”
A recent study led by a Texas A&M University researcher and published in the National Academy of Sciences official journal, The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that wearing a face mask prevents the person-to-person spread of COVID-19 and could be the key to controlling the coronavirus from overwhelming our nation’s health systems. The study also found that not wearing a mask when in public greatly increases a person’s risk of contracting the novel coronavirus that has killed more than 127,000 Americans over the past three months and infected at least 2.5 million people in the United States.
In a press conference held Tuesday, June 23, Gov. Inslee said the mask mandate was a necessary step in the state’s reopening.
“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,” Inslee said Tuesday. “Until a vaccine or cure is developed, this is going to be one of our best defenses.”
The order makes wearing masks mandatory in public indoor spaces and in public outdoor spaces where the six-foot physical-distancing guideline cannot be met. There are a few exceptions to the mandate, including exemptions for children younger than 5 (although masks are still recommended for children ages 2 to 5); for those who are hard of hearing or deaf; for people who have existing health conditions that may be adversely impacted by wearing a face covering; and when a face covering prohibits eating or drinking in a restaurant or outdoor eating space.
Violating the order will be considered a misdemeanor crime punishable of up to $1,000 in fines and 90 days in jail.
“I think of these face coverings, in some sense, as a statement,” Inslee said. “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.”
Any agency or group working with people experiencing homelessness in Clark County and in need of face coverings may contact firstname.lastname@example.org to make a request.