Washington businesses will be required to turn away customers who aren't wearing a face mask starting July 7, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday. The new statewide order is in response to a surge in coronavirus cases.
The proclamation comes almost a week after Inslee's statewide mandate took effect requiring people to wear face masks while in public, both indoors and outdoors where six feet of social distancing is not possible.
"When we wear a mask, it is a signal about something about us, it is a signal we care about the community, we care about our loved ones, we care about those we are doing business with," Inslee said.
Inslee said he's optimistic that the vast majority of Washingtonians and Washington businesses will comply with this new order, however, businesses that do not comply could be faced with enforcement actions such as fines or forced closures.
The new proclamation takes effect next Tuesday, July 7.
Gov. Inslee also announced Thursday the state is putting a two-week pause on counties moving to their next phases of reopening due to increasing COVID-19 cases.
"In Washington, our case counts have dramatically increased," said Secretary of Health John Wiesman during Thursday's press conference. Wiesman said the state hit a new record Wednesday with 618 new cases reported in a single day, and he anticipates at least 700 new cases will be reported Thursday.
Due to the rise in cases, the Department of Health is pausing counties moving to their next phases. Counties will remain in their current phase for the next two weeks, or until July 16, Wiesman said.
Inslee knows not everyone will like the move.
Earlier this week hecklers in Pasco interrupted an outdoor press conference while Inslee encouraged the use of masks in public.
Staff moved the press conference indoors.
Insee told KING 5 in a one-on-one interview this week that he was not worried about people losing faith in his orders or public distancing.
"A couple of people yelling are not going to stop the good news of the smart people of Tri-Cities who are masking up. I’m glad about that," Inslee said.
He said more than half of the population in Central Washington are following his mask mandate.
Inslee said that might be helping the situation in Yakima County.
"We think there’s some evidence we may have started to slow down the spread of the virus," he said.