Starting today, wearing face masks in public will become mandatory in Washington.

According to Gov. Jay Inslee’s office, everyone in Washington, with a few exceptions, must wear a facial covering when in a public space, including both indoor and outdoor public spaces.

Bill Tensfeld, director of Whitman County Emergency Management, said his department will have more than 36,000 masks ready to be distributed next week to low-income residents.

He said they will be available at food pantries around the county.

“We’ll get them passed out as soon as we can,” he said.

The Pullman Police Department has notified the public through social media that it will continue to enforce Inslee’s orders with an education-first approach. Officers will first educate violators about the rules and give them a warning.

“Further enforcement action will be taken in cases of flagrant, intentional violations, against those refusing to comply after education and warning,” the department stated on Facebook.

It is unclear how this will affect businesses locally. Tyler Garrett, CEO of Moscow and Pullman Building Supply, said the mandate could lead to less customer traffic inside the Pullman store. It could, however, see an increase in the number of people who use the store’s curbside pick-up service, he said.

Stephanie Rodee, manager of Dissmore’s IGA in Pullman, said she does not expect to see a significant change at the store since “99 percent” of its customers already wear masks.

Brice Erickson, owner of B & L Bicycles in Pullman, also said he does not believe it will make a big difference at his store.

He said people seem to be getting used to wearing face masks, which he said adds a level of protection for everyone in the store.

Customers are asked to wear a face mask if entering B & L Bicycles, but employees can step outside and talk to a customer from a safe distance if they do not want to wear a mask, Erickson said.

Those with certain medical conditions and children under the age of 2 are exempt from the state face mask mandate.

Individuals may remove face coverings while they are eating or drinking at a restaurant, while communicating with a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, and while outdoors in public areas, as long as they maintain six feet of distance from others.

Washington employees are required to wear face coverings with a few exceptions.

Anthony Kuipers can be reached at

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