THURSTON COUNTY –– The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office is taking an educational approach to Gov. Jay Inslee’s Thursday mandatory mask order, saying they’re working with people in the community rather than taking a heavy-handed approach to enforcement.
“We are taking an education approach towards the mask directive,” said Lt. Ray Brady of the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office. “We strongly believe folks should be following the guidance and recommendations from their health officers. We support wearing masks, but we’re not taking a hard-line approach to it and we’re not citing or arresting people for not wearing masks.”
The latest mask order came down the pike last week and took effect Tuesday, July 7. Gov. Jay Inslee, who issued the mask order July 2, said the tactic to require face coverings when out in public would curb the growing number of confirmed cases in the state.
“We are happy we have an effective, inexpensive and, essentially, a universally-available tool that we can put to work to save lives in the state of Washington,” Inslee said on Thursday. “That is face coverings, masks. Today we want to announce the next step forward in using that tool.”
While most customers of Washington’s businesses and employees statewide are already required to wear masks, the mandate didn’t yet apply to face coverings in public spaces. Now, with the latest order coming down from the governor, those who gather in public spaces can expect stricter requirements when out and about.
“Now we are taking the next step in our ‘Mask Up, Open Up’ campaign,” Inslee said. “We know we need to mask up in order to fully open up our economy. In the next couple of days, I will sign a proclamation that will make this requirement uniform across the state of Washington.”
Starting July 7, no businesses are allowed to service customers who don’t wear face coverings in that place of business. The new requirements come at a time when the number of cases in the state is on the rise. New data shows cases peaked in April at above 60 cases per 100,000 residents statewide before dipping below 40 cases per 100,000 residents, although the new numbers show new cases are rising to the point of the April peak.
“This is obviously a great cause for concern,” Inslee said during the press conference. “We have today’s situations where medical conditions are already stressed. This is a present-day problem in the State of Washington, both for loss of loved ones and for medical treatment.”
In Yakima, the area’s hospitals are so overwhelmed that medical facilities can’t accept new COVID-19 patients –– those infected have to be transported via ambulance over the mountains where they can receive treatment, Inslee added.
In King County, cases are up to 45.7 per 100,000 residents, while Spokane County has a peak of 73.9 per 100,000. Yakima County’s infection rate is 617 per 100,000. Pierce County is at 36.8 per 100,000.
Calls to the Tumwater Police Department and Lacey Police Department went unreturned. Officers with the Olympia Police Department could not be reached for comment.