Clallam County not looking into ‘criminal mandates’ for face masks

Direction would only come from state, health officer says

PORT ANGELES — While Jefferson County has mandated masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and is considering criminal and civil penalties, Clallam County Health Officer Dr. Allison Unthank said she will not recommend a mandate that would include penalties.

Clallam County had no new confirmed cases of the virus this weekend, keeping the county at 33 total with 27 patients listed as recovered.

Unthank said Clallam County dropped from 34 cases to 33 because a recent case turned out to be a false positive.

Over the weekend, Gov. Jay Inslee mandated masks for Yakima County, which is having a COVID-19 outbreak. It had 6,326 confirmed cases in a county of just 250,000 people, according to the state Department of Health.

That means one person out of 39 in Yakima County has been infected with COVID-19. If the same rate of infection was in Clallam County, there would be 1,846 cases in the county.

Inslee has mandated that businesses require their employees to wear masks in most workplaces.

On Monday, Jefferson County received a presentation from Dr. Tom Locke about possible criminal and civil penalties for not wearing a mask. He pointed out that nearby San Juan County did that in May, with possible misdemeanor charges for people failing to wear masks in businesses.

Unthank said she is not recommending those kinds of requirements.

“We’re not looking at criminal mandates,” she said.

Any mandate would be difficult for law enforcement to enforce, Unthank said, and many people legitimately have medical reasons for not being able to wear masks for long periods of time, such as problems with breathing or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Unthank said it is possible Inslee could require a statewide mask mandate at some point if cases in the state start to increase quickly.

“It could happen, especially with how fast cases are rising east of the Cascade mountains,” Unthank said. “What’s going on in Yakima is really dangerous.”

Phase 3

Unthank said she and her staff will be collecting data this week in preparation for the county application to move to Phase 3 of Inslee’s four-part Safe Start plan.

In Phase 3, libraries and museums and more businesses such as gyms can open. Restaurants can increase capacity to 75 percent, and bars can increase capacity to 25 percent.

The Clallam County Board of Health will meet June 30 to consider filing an application with the state for moving to Phase 3. Jefferson County is expected to make a similar application June 29.

In other updated numbers, 3,891 tests have been performed in Clallam County, and 3,822 were negative with 36 pending. Three people have been briefly hospitalized.

No deaths have been reported due to COVID-19 in either Clallam or Jefferson counties.

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Sports Editor Pierre LaBossiere can be reached by email at [email protected]

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