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Below is a news release from the Yakima Health Department: 

YAKIMA, WA- Dr. Teresa Everson, Health Officer at the Yakima Health District, issued a Health Officer Directive for the public to use face coverings to reduce the spread of COVID-19 illness. The Directive, effective June 3, 2020, declares that all individuals at indoor or confined outdoor public settings are instructed to use face coverings over their nose and mouth. The Directive will be in effect until it is no longer needed and rescinded by Dr. Everson.

Wearing a face covering helps prevent the spread of infection to others by blocking infectious droplets from spreading when someone with the infection coughs, sneezes and speaks. Individuals can be infected and contagious before or even without developing symptoms. Evidence suggests a significant number of infections may be transmitted in this way.

A recent observational study that was conducted over Memorial Day Weekend across Yakima County, in partnership with Virginia Mason Memorial, found that only 35% of community members were wearing masks when going to the grocery store or other essential businesses. In general, it is recommended that 80% of community members wear face masks to support reduced transmission of COVID-19.

“To be successful in slowing the spread of transmission of COVID-19, and in order to safely re-open additional businesses, we must all be accountable for our individual actions. Every Yakima County resident must know that their actions will affect how soon our community can safely re-open. One of these actions is to wear a mask every time you are in a place where you cannot safely social distance. Universal masking, along with staying at home as much as possible and other social distancing measures, are the most effective actions we can take as individuals, and as part of the community, to ensure we can slow the spread of COVID-19.” said Dr. Teresa Everson, Yakima Health District.

The Directive applies to both workers and patrons of groceries, pharmacies, big box stores, and other essential establishments, including pet supplies, auto repairs, and home improvement stores. Restaurants with carry-out and food delivery must comply as well. Face coverings do not need to be worn outside unless appropriate social distancing cannot be practiced.

Exceptions to the Health Directive include children, people with disabilities, deaf individuals who use facial movements as part of communication, and individuals advised by their medical care providers that wearing a facial covering will jeopardize their health. Health Officer Directives are based on individual compliance by the public; there is no penalty for not wearing a face covering.

Yakima Health District will be partnering with the Yakima Valley Office of Emergency Management to distribute 330,000 masks over the next week. The organizations will be working with community-based organizations to distribute masks to vulnerable community members, including essential workers, people experiencing homelessness, older adults, and staff at food banks.

Because face masks such as N95 respirators continue to be reserved for health care workers, residents should use fabric coverings such as cloth masks, scarves or bandanas. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides tips on how to make your own cloth face covering.