County issues directive to wear face masks, beginning May 22


Whatcom County health officer Dr. Greg Stern has issued a directive effective Friday, May 22 that those individuals in shared workplaces and public spaces should wear cloth masks. King County has also issued a health directive to the same effect.

In a media briefing on May 18, county health department director Erika Lautenbach said people should “think of masks just like having reusable bags in their cars and to make wearing masks normal behavior. Masks are a proven strategy to reduce transmission of the virus. We’re in this together.” Lautenbach added that the county could be moving to Phase 2 of Safe Start Washington, the state’s plan to re-open the economy, in as little as two weeks’ time.

In Stern’s directive, he stated, “There are several reasons for the directive, including maintaining the gains achieved through existing social distancing measures like the statewide stay-at-home order. 

Limiting virus transmission is especially important as summer approaches and more workplaces and businesses reopen. Most of the measures restricting activities and closing businesses worked by keeping people away from each other and from infected surfaces.” 

He added, “These measures helped us avoid high levels of Covid-19 disease, hospitalizations, and death. However, Covid-19 has not gone away. As we loosen restrictions in order to sustain our economy, we risk losing the progress we have already made in controlling the spread.”

Amy Hockenberry, the county’s health information and assessment supervisor, described the department’s efforts in tracing contacts of known cases, saying, “This is work we do, day in and day out” when tracking down possible exposure to measles and STDs, for example. Hockenberry pointed out the department is “still seeing a continuing spread of Covid-19 in our communities” and stressed the need for people to continue practicing known strategies to reduce transmission, including physical distancing, washing hands, and frequently sanitizing surfaces and objects that others touch.


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