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With reopening bringing COVID-19 case count worries, Washington will join Seattle and King County in making masks mandatory

Starting Friday, masks and face coverings will be required across the state as Washington officials look to slow the continued spread of the stubborn COVID-19 virus. The coverings have been required when “in indoor public spaces or confined spaces where it could be difficult to maintain six feet of physical distancing” in King County and Seattle since mid-May.

“We cannot let COVID-19 spread like it is right now in Washington,” Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday. “So today, we’re mandating facial coverings statewide.”

The order, which takes effect starting Friday, was made after officials reported “cases increasing” at the county level as the state reopens following months of COVID-19 restrictions.

“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 during a press conference Tuesday. “Until a vaccine or cure is developed, this is going to be one of our best defenses.”

Washington recorded more than 500 new cases Monday and eight new deaths. The state is now close to 30,000 cases and has reached 1,284 dead.

Hard hit Yakima County will face more stringent restrictions, the governor announced.

Across the state so far, about 6% of those tested have had the virus. In King County, the state’s most populous county, the number sits at 6.2% even as testing resources and the number of those seeking results have increased. In Seattle, 5.2% of those tested have been positive while in Capitol Hill and Central District ZIP codes, the county is reporting even lower rates among those tested. 3.5% of results in the CD’s 98122 have been positive, while 98112 and 98102 are below 3%. The wealthiest area of the three — 98112 — weighs in with the highest rate of those tested, by the way, with 92 out of 1,000 in the ZIP code being tested. The increased testing across the city and in its core around Capitol Hill has also increased the number of recorded positive cases.

Last week, the Capitol Hill and Central District marked a 6% increase in recorded cases after weeks of only 1% growth. Data from the Public Health dashboard shows that for the Capitol Hill area, the rate of positive cases has dropped to around 14 per 100,000 residents in step with the increased numbers of people seeking testing. The Central District is another story. Its county-reported infection rate has increased so far in June.

To date, King County has recorded nearly 9,400 cases. 584 — about 6.2% of people infected here — have died.

Testing has increased across King County

And Seattle

Mayor Jenny Durkan announced that 16,000 people in Seattle have been tested at the mobile sites opened at two locations in the city earlier this month — around 1,000 people per day.

As it becomes more clear that some areas continue to struggle with getting a handle on the virus, King County has also passed new rules that will allow a more flexible reopening of restrictions for gatherings and businesses. The legislation passed Tuesday by the King County Council the measure “requests the County Executive allow restaurants, retail services, and providers of certain personal services to use private parking areas, other private property and adjacent sidewalks, alleys or other right-of-ways for new or additional outdoor seating or retail use,” an announcement of the passage from the council reads. The change could lead to increased flexibility for restaurants, retail shops, and providers of certain personal services across unincorporated King County even as the more densely populated cities take a slower approach.

Meanwhile, King County advanced to the second phase of reopening last week meaning loosened restrictions on businesses and small gatherings.

As in Seattle, the statewide mask mandate won’t apply to children 5 or younger — though it is recommended for kids 3 and up — and people who cannot wear a mask for medical reasons, or those communicating with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing are exempt. And, no, boomer, you don’t have to wear it while you are eating or drinking.

Face masks continue to be an important factor in staying healthy. “The virus that causes COVID-19 is principally spread by droplets that you exhale when you are normally breathing, as well as when you talking, singing, coughing or sneezing,” the Washington State Department of Health writes in a “science of masks” update. “These droplets can float in the air and infect people who are near you.”

The state’s guidance on the proper use of face coverings is below.

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