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Washington's face mask requirement starts Friday

Gov. Inslee issued a statewide mask mandate, saying that coronavirus has continued to spread as the state reopens.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced face coverings will be mandatory in public, both indoors and outdoors when it’s impossible to maintain 6 feet of physical distance from others.

The order goes into effect Friday, June 26.

Inslee said that any style of face covering is acceptable.

"Any covering that will cover the nose and mouth will do in this case," he said at a press conference on Tuesday. "What you choose is your choice. We're just appreciative if everyone could think of this as the new part of etiquette in our state."

Inslee said the masks were necessary to mandate because coronavirus has continued to spread as the state reopens.

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A separate proclamation requires even more stringent requirements on Yakima County, one of the areas hardest hit by the coronavirus. 

In addition to being covered by the statewide mandate on masks in public, there will now be a legal requirement that prohibits people from entering a place of business, either indoors or outdoors, without first donning a mask. Under that same proclamation, businesses in Yakima County are prohibited from allowing a customer to enter a business, or conduct business with a customer in any public space unless the customer is wearing a face covering. 

These orders also take effect Friday.

RELATED: Yakima County hospitals overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients

While Inslee cited the outbreak in Yakima County, which has run out of hospital beds for COVID-19 patients, he said that the spread of coronavirus continues throughout all parts of Washington state.

Exceptions to the mask rule include those who have health issues impacted by face coverings, those who are deaf or hard of hearing and children under the age of 5, and when it's impractical, such as when eating in public. Children aged 2 or under should not wear a face mask.

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Dr. John Wiesman, the state's secretary of health, said that he worries that people have been letting their guards down.

"I share the governor’s concern that with us reopening some parts of our businesses and economy and with the weather being great that people have forgotten that we actually have a pandemic that we need to keep practicing these things," he said. "This is part of what different, our different life right now, while the COVID virus is around. We simply have to take these different measures right now."

VIEW | Coronavirus coverage on KING 5 

Inslee said that the state doesn't anticipate enforcing it, though that is an option under the state order.

"We don’t want to have enforcement of this. Ideally, there won’t be any criminal or civil sanctions for individuals. We just think people will respond, as they had to the first stay home order. There was vast compliance," he said. "People pitched in. Washingtonians want to help each other. They have a commonality of purpose and I think they understand science too. The science now is very compelling that this works."

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