By order of Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman, face coverings, or masks, will be required in indoor and outdoor public settings statewide beginning Friday, June 26.
The requirement applies to anyone who is in an indoor public setting, seeking health care services, waiting for or riding public transportation, or is outdoors and unable to maintain six feet distance between themselves and others.
"I think of these face coverings, in some sense, as a statement," Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday when announcing the order.
"It's a statement that when you wear it, means you care about people, because it means you want to reduce the risk that you are going to infect another person," Inslee said.
This order comes as Washington state is one of 25 states across the country that have seen an uptick of coronavirus cases in recent weeks. Yakima County has run out of hospital beds as a result of a severe outbreak there has made it the epicenter of the virus in Washington.
Two other counties, Benton and Franklin, are also dangerously close to reaching hospital capacity.
Exceptions to the mask order apply to children under the age of 5 and people with a medical, mental, or physical condition that would prevent them from wearing a face covering.
Officials said anyone who is found to have willfully violated the mandate can face a misdemeanor criminal charge.
In Yakima County, businesses that do not enforce the mandate could be subject to state-ordered closure, Inslee said.
“Until a vaccine or a cure is developed, this really is going to be our best defense,” Inslee said.
A face covering is defined by the state as anything from a scarf, to a bandana, to a homemade mask. It must fit snugly around the nose and mouth and not have any holes or tears.
The state Department of Health recommends washing face coverings daily.