On the second day Washingtonians were required to wear face coverings in public to reduce the spread of COVID-19, most in Skagit County appeared to be complying with the order.
At a busy Fred Meyer in Burlington on Saturday afternoon, a vast majority of shoppers donned face coverings. In downtown Mount Vernon, employees at businesses reported that most customers did the same.
The statewide order, which went into effect Friday, requires face coverings for those 5 and older in indoor spaces open to the public and in outdoor spaces where it is not possible to stay 6 feet apart from nonhousehold members. There are exemptions, such as when seated at a restaurant.
COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are rising again in Skagit County after leveling out before the county entered Phase 2 earlier this month.
On Saturday, Skagit County reported nine new cases — the largest single-day increase since early May, according to data from the state Department of Health.
The department reports that face coverings are effective in slowing the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, and especially helps those who are infected but have no symptoms from passing it to others.
Face coverings must cover both the mouth and nose, according to the state’s order.
“I think it’s valuable and we need to do everything we can to skew the odds in our favor and in everyone else’s favor,” said Lynn McKay of Seattle, as she browsed through racks of clothes Saturday at House of Style in Mount Vernon.
Across the street, Dilly Dally Antiques owner Kathy Tellesbo said about 90% of customers have been wearing face coverings.
“I’m not going to say anything to anyone who isn’t wearing them, I’m not going to kick them out,” she said. “You never know what’s going on with their health.”
Some are exempt from the order, including those with medical conditions that may make it difficult to breathe with a face covering.
Tellesbo said she has posted a sign at her door reminding customers of the requirement. Other businesses are offering masks at the door for those who don’t have them.
Tim Church, spokesperson for the state Department of Labor & Industries, said businesses in most of the state won’t be penalized for customers entering without a face covering. He said there are extra conditions only on businesses in Yakima County, where the outbreak has been severe.
Violation of the statewide order for those not wearing face coverings is a misdemeanor and punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, according to the Associated Press.
However, it’s unclear how the order will be enforced. Local law enforcement agencies have stated they will focus on voluntary compliance and education before enforcement.
“The statewide face covering order is a public health and safety measure, it is not a mandate for law enforcement to detain, cite or arrest violators but rather an evidence-based and safety focused directive meant to slow the spread of a potentially deadly disease,” a statement from the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office said.
Not all agree with the requirement.
Vic and Tammy Brooks of Roy, a city in Pierce County, wore face coverings while shopping in downtown Mount Vernon on Saturday afternoon, but said they were not in support of the mandate.
Vic Brooks said it doesn’t make sense masks are required in some situations but not in others, such as when eating at a restaurant.
“I think precautions should be your own choice, not mandated,” he said.
Rebecca Chase, of Seattle, and Elizabeth Murphy, of Shoreline, who were in downtown Mount Vernon on Saturday, said they both support mandatory face coverings.
Chase said she disagrees with the requirement that children as young as 5 should wear face coverings, and that kids should be able to breathe in fresh air while playing outdoors.
Murphy said she saw face coverings as a small sacrifice to help protect those with compromised immune systems.
“I think it’s short term,” she said. “I don’t think we’ll be doing it for longer than a year.”