TRI-CITIES, WA- A "no mask, no service" directive will start next week in Benton and Franklin counties according to the Benton-Franklin Health District.
The new directive announced Wednesday will require businesses to deny service to customers who are not wearing a mask. The new directive will start July 6.
It will apply to all businesses in Benton and Franklin Counties, whether they are serving customers inside any building that is open to the public or outdoors. Benton-Franklin Health Officer Dr. Amy Person issued the directive at the request of local city and county leaders.
“Both the Washington Secretary of Health and I have issued directives ordering everyone to wear face coverings in public,” said Dr. Person. “Our local compliance is just over 50%, but we need to do better. We want to be able to reopen local businesses and we know that widespread use of face masks is effective in preventing the spread of the disease.”
Just over a week ago, Gov. Jay Inslee ordered Yakima County businesses to refuse service to people who don’t wear masks.
City leaders, healthcare and local law enforcement partners from all over the area joined forces Wednesday to help spread the message: The community needs to mask up in order to move forward.
"We've asked, I've issued a directives for individuals to wear masks but we are still not seeing the numbers where they need to be," Dr. Person said.
County commissioners, along with local mayors met with Governor Jay Inslee during his visit to the Tri-Cities Tuesday. Many say although they did not agree on everything, they do agree that this is what has to be done to get numbers down.
"We don't totally agree with it. We've done a lot of things here in our community in the past few weeks as a community. To bring our numbers down and that's the point, we need to bring our numbers down," Jerome Delvin, Benton County Commissioner said.
"If you've got an issue with wearing a mask and as a constitutionalist myself i'll tell you this isn't a constitutional matter this is a citizen respect matter. Put your mask on," Brad Peck, Franklin County Commissioner said.
Local law enforcement officers say their stance will stay the same. Educate rather than enforce.
"With most laws we see very good voluntary compliance and we are seeing good voluntary compliance just not enough in the Tri-Cities and our message is very simple just wear your mask..mask up," Chief Kenneth Hohenberg, Kennewick Police Department.
The full directive can be found at the Benton-Franklin Health District's website.