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Lots of masks — and opinions — on Washington's first day of mandated use

Washington state has made face coverings mandatory in an effort to keep the spread of coronavirus in check. But not everyone likes the new requirement.

EDMONDS, Wash. — While we may never know exactly how many more people chose to wear a face-covering in public on the first day it was mandatory across Washington State, on the streets of Everett and Edmonds people were masked.

“Yeah, today everybody’s had a mask on, “ said Sheila Jensen, manager of Karl’s Bakery and Café in downtown Everett.

Washington state has made face coverings mandatory in an effort to keep the spread of coronavirus in check. 

Not everyone agrees with the state law which now makes non-compliance a misdemeanor. Some sheriffs throughout the state issued statements that they would not prioritize the mask law.

But Karl's Bakery sends a clear message. Pictures of kittens wearing masks and signs urging mask use hang on the wall and stickers on the floor denote six feet of social distancing. 

Over the cases of donuts and other delights, the bakery installed large plastic cough shield separating customers and staff.

Jensen has seen mask use increasing in recent weeks.

“Probably 50% a couple of weeks ago,” she said. "But it’s been getting better.” 

She estimated that up to 90% of customers wore masks in recent days. She worried about alienating customers by asking them to wear masks, but most have happily complied.

The key to mask use seems to boil down to how to interpret "public setting" in the issued by Washington State Health Secretary John Wiesman.  

“When a distance of at least six feet cannot be maintained from any non-household member,” a mask must be worn, according to the order. 

That includes waiting for a bus, in a store or hospital, any indoor business setting, even a restaurant except when people are eating and drinking.

It would not apply in your car or in your home.

Other rules based on the state’s phased reopening plan dictate other provisions such as the size of gatherings on groups and how businesses operate with the public during the pandemic.

As the state slowly opens, officials have become more insistent on preventative measures.

Snohomish, Pierce and King have all progressed to Phase 2 of reopening, but the number of COVID-19 transmissions is also rising, putting all that progress at risk.

King County is reporting a rise in coronavirus transmission.

On Friday, Snohomish County announced it was putting off its application to move to Phase 3 because of the rise in cases.

Tacoma-Pierce County Public Health announced that health officer Dr. Anthony Chen would recommend a "modified" Phase 2, which would loosen some restrictions. But Chen wrote earlier this week that he was concerned that the growth in positive cases based on a 14-day moving average put the county at risk of moving backward.

Yakima and Spokane have also seen sharp rises in cases. 

The test of masks could be if the state's numbers start dropping.

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