Directive To Wear Face Coverings

Page updated: Saturday May 30, 5:12 pm

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Starting May 22, 2020, everyone in Whatcom County is directed to wear a face covering while at any indoor or outdoor public space where you may be within 6 feet of someone who does not live with you.   

Read the full Local Health Officer Directive.  

For a summary of the directive please see this info-sheet, also in Spanish (PDF).   

Where You Need To Wear A Face Covering

Whatcom County residents are directed to wear face coverings in most public settings. Wear a face covering when you are at any indoor or outdoor public space where you may be within six feet of someone who does not live with you.

Public spaces include:

  • Stores that sell food and beverages, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience stores, and farmer’s markets.
  • Retail stores, such as auto supply stores, hardware stores, and garden stores. 
  • Restaurant take-out businesses. Employees who prepare, carry out, and deliver food must wear masks.
  • Buses, rideshares, and other forms of public transportation.
  • Workplaces for manufacturing, agriculture, construction, and other trades.

This directive will expire when the Health Officer determines cloth face coverings are no longer needed in public settings.

Who Should Wear a Face Covering

Everyone is strongly urged to wear face coverings in public settings unless they are in one of the following groups:

  • Children ages 2 years and younger.
    • Babies and toddlers under age two should never wear face coverings.
  • Children ages 2-12 years.
  • Anyone with a disability that makes it hard for them to wear or remove a face covering.
  • Anyone who is deaf and moves their face and mouth to communicate.
  • Anyone who has been advised by a medical professional to not wear a face covering because of personal health issues.
  • Anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, or unable to remove the face covering without help.

What Kind of Face Coverings to Use

Face coverings are also called cloth masks, face coverings, or face masks. You can use:

  • Cloth face mask
  • Scarves
  • Bandanas 

Face coverings should fit snugly over your nose and mouth. Do not use medical masks or N95 respirators. These should be saved for healthcare workers and people who have special health needs.  The CDC has sew, and no sew, instructions for making your own face covering. If you would rather purchase a face covering there are a variety online retail options

See our info sheet in the right column to learn more about what type of face coverings to use. 

How to Properly Wear Face Coverings To Protect Yourself

  • Your mask should cover your nose and mouth at all times.
  • Always wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. before you put on a face covering and after removing it.
  • Change your face covering when it gets moist.
  • Wash your face covering after each use.

Learn more about how to appropriately wear a face covering here: 

Where to Get a Face Covering If You Can’t Buy One

Whatcom Unified Command is working with community organizations to assess the scale of need for masks within vulnerable communities and those who face barriers to obtaining masks, including people experiencing homelessness, older adults, and low-income residents.

A supply of single-use, non-medical masks will likely be purchased and distributed to locally owned businesses and local governments as they reopen. The masks are intended to be used by employees and customers and will be distributed through local Chambers of Commerce or other appropriate business organizations.

Why Wear a Face Covering

Face coverings are an additional tool we can use to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community. They protect others by blocking droplets that contain the virus from spreading to others when someone with the infection coughs, sneezes, or speaks.

Face coverings do not replace the need for frequent handwashing or social distancing measures.

Information for Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Deafblind Community Members

This directive affects community members who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deafblind in different ways than others. We’ve compiled resources to explain how the directive applies to you if you are deaf, hard of hearing, or deafblind.

Guidance For Businesses & Employers

Businesses and individuals must continue to follow all existing COVID-19 orders from the Local Health Officer, Governor, or other local, state, or federal regulatory agencies, and any other relevant local, state, or federal civil rights laws.

Businesses are directed to post signage advising individuals to wear face coverings on the premises. 

  • You find a signs to post at your for business or place of employment in upper right side of this page.

Coronavirus hazard considerations for non-healthcare employers, including minimum masking requirements for employees, from Washington State Department of Labor & Industries.


We strongly urge people to comply with this Directive because it is an effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, there is no criminal, civil, or financial penalty for failing to wear a face covering in these settings. Violation of this Directive does not create grounds to stop, detain, issue a citation, arrest, or prosecute individuals who do not comply with it. 

Law enforcement will not be involved in the enforcement of this directive. This Directive may and should be used to educate and encourage individuals to wear face coverings, and we will evaluate if additional steps need to be taken if there is wide-scale non-compliance.