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Masks: The new fashion craze for summer! And fall. And almost certainly next winter.

The state requires people in Washington wear face coverings in public spaces. The public health order was enacted June 26, 2020,  and is in effect until further notice from the Department of Health. Starting today, July 7, businesses won’t be able to serve customers who aren’t wearing face coverings. Wearing a face covering in public will help limit the spread of COVID-19. Certain people are not required to wear face coverings. Read more at tpchd.org/mask

This order does not mean every day is Halloween and we need to dress up like superheroes or Disney characters. We also don’t need to hide in our homes until next year.

protective mask woman garden

But this order will be with us for a while. We better get used to it. To that end, we offer some advice and tips we learned along the way.

Historical context.

A long, long time ago, as far back as April 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended wearing face coverings or masks in public. Medical-grade face coverings still should be for health providers only.

Guidance from the CDC and state Department of Health tell us wearing a face covering of any kind is another tool to build defenses against spreading COVID-19. Other tools include:

  • Wash hands, cover coughs and follow physical distancing measures.
  • Stay close to home.
  • Keep gatherings to 5 or fewer people from outside your home per week.
  • Wear face coverings in public.
  • Get tested for COVID-19 if you have participated in any large gatherings.
  • Get tested for COVID-19 if you are a member of the hardest hit communities: Alaska Native, Black, Hawaiian, Latinx, Native American, Pacific Islander.

A caution: Do not put face coverings on children under 2 or anybody with certain disabilities or health conditions.

Face coverings show compassion.

Wearing a face covering shows you care about the people around you. The face covering limits the transmission of droplets that could spread COVID-19. The droplets spread when you talk, laugh, sneeze, sing, or breathe. You could have the virus that causes COVID-19 and not know it.  A face covering also offers protection from receiving droplets from others. So, wear a face covering to protect your loved ones and your neighbors.

These tips will help you clean and disinfect your face covering.

Use these instructions to make your own face covering.

Public health order

The public health order, issued by the state Secretary of Health and announced by Gov. Jay Inslee on June 26, 2020, requires wearing a face covering in public spaces.    The order requires we wear a face covering in indoor public spaces, such as stores, restaurants or offices, or when outdoors and unable to maintain 6 feet of distance between people. Some counties may choose to adopt stricter policies.

Exemptions to the order include:

Children:

  • Under age 2 should never wear a face covering for safety reasons.
  • Ages 2-4 should wear a face covering in all public settings when an adult can supervise to make sure the child uses it safely.

Not required for people:

  • With a disability that makes it hard to wear or remove a face covering.
  • With difficulty breathing.
  • Who have medical advice that wearing a face covering poses a health risk.
  • Who are hearing impaired and use facial expression and mouth movement to aid in their communication.
  • Communicating with someone who lipreads. In this case a person may temporarily remove their face covering.
  • Who are eating or sleeping.
  • Who have safety concerns.

Do cloth face coverings protect against COVID-19? Who should use them?

Cloth or other homemade face coverings are not tested and certified as personal protective equipment (PPE). Those providing care in healthcare settings and first responders—such as firefighters, EMTs and law enforcement officers—should only use cloth face coverings as a last resort.

We encourage people to wear face coverings. They should cover your nose and mouth. When not worn properly, they cannot help you protect those around you. 

We can choose to do what is right and what will help keep ourselves, our friends, our families, and our community healthy.

Here is what you will see the Health Department doing:

  • We instituted a policy and procedure for Health Department staff and clients to use face coverings. We encourage Pierce County, cities and towns, and businesses to follow suit. We are happy to provide guidance.
  • We continue our community engagement, public education, marketing, and social marketing campaigns to encourage testing, social distancing, healthy behaviors, and use of face coverings. We are happy to collaborate with anyone else with the same objectives.
  • We keep accessibility in mind. People who are deaf or hard of hearing often use facial movements to relay their meaning or reading lips to understand others. Wearing a face covering may interfere with their ability to communicate with—or understand—others. We must make sure everyone can communicate and remain safe.

If we want to return to greater freedoms and closer to normal lives, we all must do our best to wear face coverings and practice all the other measures to protect one another. Our new webpage on face coverings recently went online. On it, you will find our latest guidance, as well as a new campaign relying on humor to share the importance of wearing face coverings and to get more people talking about face covering as an essential part of keeping us healthy: tpchd.org/mask.

Make sure to follow us on social media.

For more information about COVID-19, visit tpchd.org/coronavirus.