‘No mask, no service’ now in effect in Washington

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Businesses statewide are now required to refuse service to anyone not wearing a face covering. This and other restrictions announced last week by Gov. Jay Inslee and state Secretary of Health John Weisman are in response to rising cases of COVID-19 in six counties.

The legal requirement was first put in place in Yakima County in June, where a severe outbreak of COVID-19 has crippled the area’s hospital capacity.

Last week, Inslee announced the masking measure will be required statewide.

“We’re doing this because of a spike in cases of COVID-19 all over the state,” the governor said.

“The better we can protect ourselves from the virus, the better we can avoid repeating some of the painful measures we had to take in the spring to shut down the economy,” Inslee said.

Exemptions from the face covering order exist for those with medical conditions and children under the age of 2.

The U.S. Department of Justice is warning citizens of fraudulent “exemption cards” which are being sold and circulated online. The laminated cards assert that the carrier is exempt from any face covering requirement but according to the federal officials, the cards do not carry the force of law.

One highly circulated iteration is available for purchase online in boxes of 500 for $50 and asserts protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The ADA does not provide a blanket exemption to people with disabilities from complying with safety requirements, according to a DOJ press release.

“All of that stuff is just plain bogus,” Tom Locke Jefferson County Public Health officer said of homemade exemption cards. “There’s no constitutional right to spread infectious diseases to other people.”

Masks have been used for decades as a way to stop the spread of infections, and the cases of people who can’t use a mask for authentic medical reasons are very rare.

Face masks have been commonly used by very frail people, and those with advanced medical conditions such as heart disease, he said.

“They tolerate masks just fine,” Locke said.

Those who can’t wear masks typically suffer from psychological issues — such as panic attacks — or are assault survivors or people with developmental disabilities.

If a person with that type of disability is unable to wear a mask, then the ADA requires that they be given reasonable accommodations in order to receive services. These accommodations could be things like wearing a face shield instead of a mask, wearing a scarf or loose face covering instead of a tight-fitting one, or making accommodations for outdoor pick up of goods or appointments via telephone or video.

These accommodations, however, are only for people with disabilities. The ADA defines disability as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” A person with a disability also must also have a “history or a record of such impairment” or be “perceived by others as having such an impairment.”

“A reality of the current situation is people who do not wear masks are not going to be able to do everything they want to do,” Locke said at this week’s county commissioners meeting.

Inslee said he is optimistic that citizens and businesses will comply with the face covering order. If they do not, individuals can face criminal penalties and businesses can face fines or state mandated closure.

“This is not an optional plan for businesses,” Inslee said. “This is a legal requirement.”

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Tom Thiersch

Walking through QFC in PT on Wednesday, I saw many of the staff wearing masks incorrectly. A person "wearing" a mask when it's hanging down without covering the nose or, even worse, hanging down below chin, makes the mask useless and shows total disdain for the rights of others.

As Dr. Locke said on Monday, “There’s no constitutional right to spread infectious diseases to other people.”

The sign on the door says, "Don't enter without a mask". Great, I 100% support that. But when the business doesn't make sure that its employees are complying, it's really discouraging.

On my way out, I saw a manager at the service desk remove their mask to talk on the phone.

So, who do I contact with a complaint? What's the enforcement mechanism? I guess next time I'll have to take some pictures. Maybe Kroger Corporate will pay attention?

Thursday, July 9
Laura Friess

While shopping at QFC in Sequim a couple of weeks ago, I saw the same thing as Tom Thiersch... employees with masks pulled down under their chins. I contacted the store manager and have heard nothing. I also contacted QFC Corporate (Kroger) and received a reply that the company provides masks to its employees. That, apparently, is the extent of their responsibility in their eyes. They provide the masks, but no one can require that an employee wear the mask correctly.

I'm not shopping at QFC any longer.

Thursday, July 9
Tom Thiersch

In our current hyper-polarized society, public health has, irrationally, become politicized.

Check out:

https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/summary?id=D000027084

It looks like Kroger has regularly contributed much more to Republicans than to Democrats, so is that the reason?

Or, is it that the local QFC staff are just irresponsible.

Saturday, July 11
Tom Thiersch

I asked the County Commissioners about this. Kate Dean pointed me to L&I.

From there, I found the site to report complaints about businesses that fail to obey the COVID-19 regulations:

https://coronavirus.wa.gov/report-safe-start-violation

Monday, July 13