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King County urging people to wear masks in indoor public places

Health officials strongly urge people to wear a face-covering in places like grocery stores, pharmacies and other places to slow the spread of coronavirus.

SEATTLE — King County health officials and County Executive Dow Constantine have issued a health directive urging people to use face coverings in indoor public spaces and in areas where social distancing is difficult. 

Although it has not yet been mandated, health officials strongly urge people to wear a face-covering in places like grocery stores, pharmacies and other places to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The face coverings do not have to be N95 surgical masks but can be any cloth bandana or scarf that covers the nose and mouth. 

People do not need to wear masks outdoors, but again, are encouraged to do so in tight places like farmer's markets and curbside pickups where social distancing is difficult.

Just wearing a mask won't do it: officials say people need to continue to practice social distancing and proper hygiene. It's also important to properly wear your mask and change it out if it's dirty or moist. 

A snug mask with more layers is the most effective, however, a thin, loose mask is better than nothing. 

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King County and the city of Seattle will be providing thousands of masks to communities that may not have adequate access to face coverings. Seattle has 45,000 face coverings to be distributed and King County has 115,000 "masks of various sorts" to distribute.

Law enforcement will not be involved in enforcing the directive and there won't be a penalty for those who don't comply, however, officials are strongly urging those who are able to wear a mask to do so.

The health directive was issued as Washington state slowly begins to reopen the state and economy. 

"You need most people to comply with this. The more the better. It would be most effective if everyone followed this directive...if there are a few or can't that don't, it will still be an effective intervention if most of us do," said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Health Officer for Public Health at King County. 

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