What does the face covering order mean?

The county has provided a summary of the order: The Health Officer’s most recent order is focused on preventing the spread of COVID-19 indoors at businesses and other public indoor spaces. The order is a recommendation while the county is in Phase 1. When the county goes into Phase 2  any violation of this order is a misdemeanor punishable by fine and arrest and imprisonment up to 90 days pursuant to RCW 70.05.120.

The order has three parts:

1. Starting Saturday May 16, owners and operators of businesses and public building are encouraged, but not required, to require customers and visitors who enter their buildings to wear a cloth face covering. There are exceptions for children under two and people who are not able to wear or remove a face covering for medical or other reasons, as detailed in the Health Officer’s order.

2. The second part of the order takes effect when San Juan County moves into Phase II of the Governor’s Safe Start Plan. When the County enters Phase II, customers or other visitors may not enter or remain inside a business unless they are wearing cloth face coverings, even if they are unable to wear or remove a face mask as described in #1 above. This applies only indoors, not in outdoor spaces. The only exception is for people who are eating or drinking at a restaurant, tavern, or bar. Business owners and operators are responsible for enforcing this rule. People who cannot or will not wear face coverings will not be allowed inside businesses.

Because all people need a way to get food, medicine, and medical supplies, even if they are unable or unwilling to wear a mask, businesses that sell these items and are open must provide a way for customers to purchase these items without entering a building, such as curbside pick-up or delivery. Many local businesses are already offering these services.

Face coverings can be as simple as two layers of cloth covering the nose and mouth, such as a bandana or scarf worn in accordance with CDC recommendations.

3. The third part of the order also takes effect after San Juan County moves into Phase II of the Governor’s Safe Start Plan. It requires ports, marinas, and businesses open to the public to post signs stating that cloth face coverings are required inside businesses in San Juan County.

When will San Juan County move to Phase 2?

The exact date is unknown at this time. It is dependent upon a decision by the Governor in conjunction with the WA State Secretary of Health. More details on the Governor’s four phased approach to reopening are available HERE.

What does the order NOT do?

• It does not eliminate the need to practice social distancing, wash hands frequently, and avoiding touching of the face.

• It does not require employees to wear face coverings at work. Employee face covering requirements are established by the Governor.

• It does not require anyone to wear surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Surgical masks and respirators are critical supplies that should be reserved for health care workers, first responders, and others who need them.

What exactly is a face covering?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) define cloth face coverings as fabric coverings including cloth face masks, scarves and bandana coverings, or any homemade face covering made of cotton fabric. The CDC also makes clear that cloth face coverings should:

• Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face

• Be secured with ties or ear loops

• Include multiple layers of fabric

• Allow for breathing without restriction

• Be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape

• You can find more information on the CDC's website.

Remember that surgical masks and N-95 respirators are critical supplies that should be reserved for health care workers, medical first responders, and other workers as recommended by CDC guidance.

Such items should not be worn as cloth face coverings by the general public unless necessary.

How exactly do face coverings help prevent the spread of COVID-19?

Facial coverings do not replace proper hygiene or social distancing, which are by far the best methods of protection. A cloth face covering does protect others and slow community spread of COVID-19 by blocking infectious droplets from spreading when someone with the infection speaks, coughs or sneezes. A key transmission method for the COVID-19 virus is through respiratory droplets, and growing evidence suggests that a significant number of infections are transmitted by asymptomatic people who are expelling those infectious droplets.

Is anyone exempt from the Order to wear face coverings before entering a business or other public indoor space?

While San Juan County is in Phase 1 children under two and people who are not able to wear or remove a face covering for medical or other reasons are exempt. Once the County enters Phase 2, no one will be allowed to enter a business or other indoor public space without a face covering. Note that businesses providing food, medicine, and medical supplies are required to provide curbside pick-up or delivery to customers. Note that this order does not require employees of businesses to cover their faces as employee face covering requirements are established by the Governor.

When is a face covering not required?

In San Juan County, face coverings are not required to be worn:

• At home

• In your car alone or if you’re only with members of your household

• Outdoors, though please note that wearing a face covering when outdoors where social distancing cannot be maintained is strongly recommended.

It is recommended to have a face covering with you and ready to use when in public for times when maintaining physical distancing is not possible.

If I don’t currently have a mask or face covering, where do I get one?

First off, scarves and bandanas are acceptable face coverings. The CDC also has good guidance on how to make your own, both for those who sew and those who don’t (scroll down to bottom of page). There are a number of local efforts to produce and distribute locally made masks. If you cannot find a mask, contact San Juan County Health & Community Services at 360-370-7400. They have a small supply on hand and are actively working to secure more.

So, if I see someone in a business or other indoor public space without a mask on, what should I do?

Please use common sense, empathy, and thoughtfulness when seeing someone without a mask. For situations where a genuine concern has arisen about someone’s willingness to follow this order, please contact the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office hotline at 360-370-7609 or by email at covid19tipshotline@sanjuanco.com. Please note that education will always be the preferred means of resolution, rather than penalties.

What is the penalty for not wearing a face covering?

It is up to everyone in San Juan County to help follow public health guidance to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the islands. The sincere hope is that this can be achieved without the need for enforcement or penalties. We need to be accountable to each other, to our most vulnerable community members, and to our first responders and health care workers who are on the frontlines of this crisis. However, any violation of this order that occurs once San Juan County has moved to Phase 2 is a misdemeanor punishable by fine and arrest and imprisonment up to 90 days pursuant to RCW 70.05.120.

This primary goal of the Order is to educate, encourage, and persuade individuals to wear face coverings. I’m worried about visitors to the islands and them not covering their faces, what do we do?

The first step is to model good behavior. If visitors see residents and employees of businesses broadly respecting this order, they are more likely to follow suit. In addition, we have produced signage that local businesses can use to inform customers about the requirements to cover our faces before entering. These posters are available at www.sjccovid.com/facecoverings.

Won’t this requirement hurt businesses?

The main goal with this order is to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our community. This is something we have been very successful at doing to date, and we want to hold on to those gains.

Keeping safe is the best way for us to ensure the ability of our community to continue to restore the local economy. We don’t want to go backwards, so taking this step is a vital piece of ensuring our continued progress in fighting this illness. Remember, keeping safe = keeping open.

How long do I need to wear a face covering?

You should wear a cloth face covering for the entire duration of the time you’re in a public indoor setting.

When will this Order expire?

The Order shall remain in effect until further Order of the County Health Officer following a determination that the wearing of cloth face coverings is no longer necessary

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  • Dave
    Dave Tuesday, 19 May 2020 06:30 Comment Link

    So face covering requirements become more restrictive if we are allowed to move to phase 2. I can hardly wait to hear what Dr. James has planned for us during phase 3. Maybe biohazard suits? That would be fun and would send a clear message to those pesky tourists that may dare to come visit (and attempt to spend their money) in San Juan County.

  • janis DeBardi
    janis DeBardi Monday, 18 May 2020 19:12 Comment Link

    I work for a construction company..we work outdoors amd are required to where a face mask because we are doing business in piblic settings....i think it important to make that clear to people doing business outdoors....all the construction sites onthe mainland practice this same method.....
    also im concerned about face masks that are not clean and are not being cleaned they are kept in truck/car that people ride in that have not been necssarily sanitized....or the mask is shared with others....i dont see this practice being completely safe of germs...can you give me some feedback on how masks can be beneficial if they are filled with germs...Thank Yoj

  • rick hartman
    rick hartman Monday, 18 May 2020 18:09 Comment Link

    bet you lose when you try to enforce this on someone with health issues who cannot where a mask.


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