A state regulation requiring people to wear masks or be refused service by Washington businesses has many Clallam County business owners seeing more face coverings on customers.
The rule, which took effect July 7 through a mandate from Gov. Jay Inslee, prohibits allowing customers to enter a business, or conducting business with customers who are not wearing facial coverings in any public space, indoors or outdoors.
It was enacted in an attempt to stymie a spike in the number of new coronavirus cases and a possible rollback of economic re-openings. The increase in confirmed cases has delayed the entry of counties into the next phase of the state’s four-phase reopening plan; among them are both Clallam and Jefferson counties, which are in Phase 2.
Businesses that do not comply with the masking order could face consequences ranging from fines to losing their licenses while customers themselves could face misdemeanor charges.
Alan Turner, co-owner of Port Book and News in Port Angeles, said compliance is far from perfect, but people seem to be getting the idea. He said he or his employees sometimes had to remind customers to don a mask, but added that his bookstore is probably ahead of the game.
“It’s better than it was just two or three weeks ago,” Turner said. “It’s probably as good as we could hope.”
At The Co-op Farm and Garden in Sequim, compliance with the mask mandate is high, said Carlita Heilman, who works in customer service.
“We don’t seem to be having much of a problem with it,” she said, adding that most customers come in with masks and for those who don’t, the store has masks available.
“We haven’t had anybody say ‘no we’re not going to (wear one)’,” she said.
Mask exemptions exist for people who are deaf or have hearing loss, those who have medical conditions that preclude them from wearing masks and children age 5 and younger.
People engaged in recreation alone or with household members or while they are eating in restaurants don’t have to wear masks as long as they are properly distanced from others. Diners must wear masks when they arrive and after they eat.
Public health officials agree that wearing masks slows the spread of the virus, which can be carried by people who are asymptomatic and don’t know that they can infect others. The point of wearing a mask is not to protect the wearer but to protect others, since people without symptoms can transmit the virus, they said.
Early on in the 2020 pandemic, agreement nationally on the necessity of face masks was not uniform, but by early April, the national Centers for Disease Control and the state Department of Health recommended them.