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County Health directive: wear cloth face coverings in public places

Completed homemade fabric masks (March 2020). Photo courtesy of Jolene McMillan of Ferndale

Starting May 22nd, everyone in Whatcom County is directed to wear a cloth face covering while at any indoor or outdoor public space where they may be within 6 feet of someone who does not live in the same household according to the Whatcom County Health Department.

Health officials announced today they are directing residents to wear cloth face coverings whenever in public places. An appropriate covering, they said, could be:

  • cloth mask
  • bandanna
  • scarf

We strongly urge people to comply with this Directive because it is an effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, there is no criminal, civil, or financial penalty for failing to wear a face covering in these settings. Violation of this Directive does not create grounds to stop, detain, issue a citation, arrest, or prosecute individuals who do not comply with it.

Law enforcement will not be involved in the enforcement of this directive. This Directive may and should be used to educate and encourage individuals to wear face coverings, and we will evaluate if additional steps need to be taken if there is wide-scale non-compliance.

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Whatcom County Health Department – May 18, 2020

Health officials added they do not want the public to be wearing N-95 and medical-grade surgical masks. “These types of masks should be reserved to protect frontline workers who are more directly exposed to the virus, such as nurses, doctors, and EMTs. Please leave these masks for those workers.”

Public spaces, according to Health officials, include:

  • Stores that sell food and beverages
    such as grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience stores and farmer’s markets
  • Retail stores
    such as auto supply stores, hardware stores and garden stores
  • Restaurant take-out businesses
    employees who prepare, carry out and deliver food must wear masks
  • Public transportation
    buses, rideshares and others
  • Workplaces
    manufacturing, agriculture, construction and other trades

Businesses are directed to post signage advising individuals to wear face coverings on the premises. 

100,000 single-use non-medical masks will also be purchased and distributed to locally owned businesses and local government offices as they reopen according to today’s announcement. “The masks are intended to be used by employees and customers and will be distributed through local Chambers of Commerce.”

The directive will continue until the Health Officer determines mask use is no longer required, according to today’s announcement.

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