SEATTLE, WA — Starting Saturday, face coverings are now required in all common spaces in Washington, including outdoor areas, as the state tries to get a handle on rising rates of coronavirus infections.
State Secretary of Health John Wiesman announced the expanded mask order on Thursday, the same day that Gov. Jay Inslee rolled out new restrictions on restaurants, bars, weddings and fitness centers.
The order includes elevators, shared spaces in apartment buildings, student houses and essentially any area outside the home where contact with others is likely.
"Washingtonians came together once and changed the way we interact to reduce COVID-19 case counts, hospitalizations and deaths," the Department of Health said in a news release Saturday. "We’ve lost our momentum, and case counts are worse across the state now than they were at our previous peak and the number of hospitalizations are again increasing."
The DOH said the expanded order is intended to increase the use of face coverings and convince residents that masks are critically important to help slow the spread of the virus.
The department noted that staying home is the surest way to avoid transmitting COVID-19, but that if residents must go out, maintaining social distance and wearing face coverings is the next best option.
Wiesman cited the early success seen in Yakima County, where mask rules were implemented amid a surge in cases, as a point of encouragement that face coverings can make a notable difference in curbing the virus's transmission rate.
Lucas Combos contributed to this report.