Can’t meet 6 feet? Face masks required throughout Washington, starting Friday

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OLYMPIA — All those DIY mask-making videos are about to come in handy.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced today that facial coverings will be required in public throughout Washington to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, beginning Friday, when social distancing of six feet or more isn’t possible.

The mandate, put forward by Inslee and Health Secretary John Wiesman shortly after 4 p.m., requires facial coverings “in an indoor public space, or in an outside public space when unable to physically distance from others.”

“As necessary economic activity increases and more people are out in their communities, it is imperative that we adopt further measures to protect all of us,” Inslee said during a press conference. “Until a vaccine or cure is developed, this is going to be one of our best defenses.”

Yakima County, currently the hardest hit by the novel coronavirus, was the first in the state to see a mandatory mask order from the governor. Inslee and Wiesman said the order would be extended to all other counties after surging case counts were detected elsewhere, including Chelan and Douglas counties.

Exemptions from mask use in public include those with certain medical conditions, and children under the age of 2, for whom masks are not recommended. Children ages 2 to 4 are encouraged, but not required, to wear a face covering in public with adult supervision.

Individuals may remove masks when eating or drinking at a restaurant; while communicating with a person who is deaf or hard of hearing; and while outdoors in public areas, provided that a distance of six feet is maintained from people who are not members of their household.