Face Masks or Cloth Face Covering

WHEN AM I REQUIRED TO WEAR A FACE MASK OR CLOTH FACE COVERING?

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COVID-19: cover your face to slow the spread
PDF: Keep others safe

Any of us can carry the virus and not realize we’re spreading it when we talk, cough or sneeze. Face coverings are required statewide in all public spaces because they are effective in slowing the spread of COVID-19, especially when combined with 6 feet of physical distance.

There are three face cover orders in place:

  • For employers and workers: Washington employers must ensure workers wear face coverings at work in almost all situations. Employers must provide face coverings if workers do not have them. Employers must comply with this order, which is enforced by the Department of Labor & Industries.
  • For the public: An order from the secretary of health requires Washingtonians to wear face coverings in public spaces and shared spaces, both indoors and outdoors. Examples include hotel or apartment hallways, outdoors where many people are gathered such as parks, playgrounds or popular walking paths, and in a restaurant when not seated and eating. People are individually responsible to comply with this order.
  • For businesses: A proclamation from Gov. Inslee prohibits businesses from allowing customers to enter without face coverings. Businesses are encouraged to provide alternatives for customers who cannot wear masks. Best practices for businesses is here in English and Spanish).

Additional Q&A is available at the state Department of Health. If you’re an employer and have questions about the separate order regarding face coverings for employees, visit the state Department of Labor & Industries common questions page.

Are there exemptions or times I don't have to wear a face covering?

There are some exemptions to the DOH order, including people with certain disabilities or health conditions, people who are deaf or hard of hearing, and children under the age of 2. (Children younger than two years old should not wear face coverings. Children ages 2 to 4 should wear face coverings with adult supervision, and children five and older are required to wear face coverings.)

You do not need to wear a cloth face covering in your home when you are only with people in your household, or when you are alone in your car. You do not need to wear one when seated at a restaurant eating, or when you are outdoors and people are far apart.

Why is this requirement in place?

Cloth face masks protect other people from getting COVID-19 from us when we talk, cough or sneeze. Between 20-40 percent of people with COVID-19 don't show any symptoms but can still spread the virus to others. Recent research suggests wearing a face covering can significantly reduce the incidence of COVID-19. Until a vaccine or cure is developed, face coverings will be our best defense.

REMEMBER: Staying home is still the safest way to prevent spreading COVID-19. When out, wear your face covering, stay 6 feet apart from others, wash your hands frequently, and stay local.

FACIAL COVERING GUIDANCE FOR BUSINESSES

As of June 8, all employees are required to wear a cloth facial covering except when working alone in an office, vehicle, or at a job site, or when the job has no in-person interaction. This applies to employees working in separate rooms or cubicles if the walls are below face level when working at their desks.

Employers must provide cloth facial coverings to employees, unless their exposure dictates a higher level of protection. Employees may choose to wear their own facial covering at work, provided it meets the minimum requirements. As of July 7, businesses may not allow customers or visitors to enter or conduct business without wearing a face covering, and must post signage about the required use of face coverings.

Infographics and videos

BEST PRACTICES ON FACE MASKS OR CLOTH FACE COVERINGS

HOW TO MAKE A FACE MASK

  • You can make a mask that allows others to see your lips as you speak. It's really helpful to people who are hard of hearing. The Hearing, Speech & Deaf Center has step-by-step instructions.
  • Mask-making instructions from the Lt. Governor's Mask Challenge page

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Do people need to wear face coverings while working out in a gym?

Only if they cannot maintain 6 feet of separation from non-household members in the gym.

I have a reason I cannot wear a face covering. Am I required to document or prove that?

No, the order does not require you to document or prove a reason for not wearing a face covering. If a business won’t allow you to enter their office or store, ask them what accommodations they can provide such as curb-side pick-up, delivery or virtual meeting options.

Should I say something if someone near me isn’t wearing a face covering?

No. Someone may have a medical reason for not wearing a face covering. Whether those around you are wearing face coverings or not, focus on keeping 6 feet of distance between you and washing your hands often.

I don’t want to make or buy a face covering. Are there other options?

Cloth face coverings do not need to be complicated or expensive. Save medical masks and respirators for health care workers and others in high-risk settings. Easy alternative are to use a scarf or any breathable, washable fabric, and wrap it around your face so that a couple layers of fabric are completely covering your mouth and nose.

When do I not have to wear a mask?

You do not need to wear a cloth face covering when you are in your own home or in your car, if you are only with people in your own household. You also do not need to wear a cloth face covering when you are exercising outdoors and you have plenty of space. It’s a good idea to keep one in your pocket, though, in case you come across other people you can’t stay six feet away from. And some people may have health conditions or circumstances that make wearing a cloth face covering difficult or dangerous.

What should I do if I see someone not wearing a mask?

Nothing. Some people have conditions or circumstances that would make wearing a cloth face covering difficult or dangerous. Just wear your mask and stay six feet away.

Is wearing a face covering safe? It feels hard to breathe when I wear one.

While some people have health conditions that make face coverings unsafe, they are safe for nearly all of us, even if they feel uncomfortable at first and take a while to get used to. Public health experts agree face coverings are an important tool in preventing COVID and research is increasingly suggesting widespread use is effective. Make sure your face covering covers your mouth and nose but isn’t overly tight or restrictive. Choose a soft fabric such as cotton knit or use a bandana or scarf if that feels more comfortable.

 

Additional Q&A is available at the state Department of Health. If you’re an employer and have questions about the separate order regarding face coverings for employees, visit the state Department of Labor & Industries common questions page.