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caption: Aaron Donohue offers free masks and hand sanitizer at Proper Joe Coffeehouse in Snohomish on Monday, August 23, 2021.
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Aaron Donohue offers free masks and hand sanitizer at Proper Joe Coffeehouse in Snohomish on Monday, August 23, 2021.
Credit: Casey Martin / KUOW

'It's not our rule. We're just abiding by it.' Statewide mask mandate returns to Washington

This week, Washingtonians are once again required to wear face masks inside businesses and at indoor gatherings. Governor Jay Inslee made the decision as Covid hospitalizations in the state are at an all time high in the coronavirus pandemic.

In downtown Snohomish on Monday, the first day of Washington's reinstated mask mandate, people carried their masks with them between stops into the antique stores.

Some businesses were a little loose with the mask rule. A few bartenders wore masks around their necks, not over their faces.

An employee at Snohomish Pie Company said customers usually pull out their masks when they step inside and have it fully on by the time they reach the counter.

But at Proper Joe Coffeehouse, owner Aaron Donohue reminds every customer to mask up.

“Frankly I've just taken to saying, ‘we're masking up now,’” Donohue says between making drinks. “Kind of a collective ‘we.’ If there's resistance I do always remind people it's not our rule. We're just abiding by it.”

In Snohomish County, an indoor mask mandate has already been in place since August 12 due to the surge in Covid cases here.

The two week head start has helped, Donohue says, getting customers to go along with the new statewide mandate.

“Yeah, it was difficult at first. It's been easier as we've been going on. I can tell you, no one wants to do it,” he says. "No one who was unvaccinated wants to do it because they didn't want to do it in the first place. And no one who is vaccinated wants to do it because we are vaccinated.”

Despite Washington adults now being nearly 60% fully vaccinated, Covid hospitalizations in the state are higher now than at any point in the pandemic.

The governor’s mask mandate is the latest in a series of measures to help curb the recent rise of the coronavirus delta variant.

caption: Businesses in Snohomish County have required masks since before the statewide mandate due to high covid cases. Monday, August 23, 2021.
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Businesses in Snohomish County have required masks since before the statewide mandate due to high covid cases. Monday, August 23, 2021.
Credit: KUOW Photo/ Casey Martin

Proper Joe Coffeehouse offers free masks for customers who need one. Not everyone in Snohomish is as easy going about masks as Donohue is, however. Two shop owners along 1st Street said they would not enforce the mandate and a third said they weren’t aware of the requirement.

Donohue says for him reminding people to wear a mask is easy, and he’s not looking for confrontation.

“It's not an easy situation to navigate,” he says. "And so at this point if you're not going to patronize my shop because you don't want to follow the rules, that's something I'm willing to live with.”

The Washington State Department of Health also recommends people wear masks at crowded outdoor events like concerts, sporting events, and farmers markets to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease.