Inslee's mask order offers protection for Walla Wala County

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The current upswing in coronavirus cases in Washington state is cause for great concern.

It’s also a call to take action.

And Gov. Jay Inslee this week did just that. He ordered, starting on Friday, that protective face covering been worn in public in each of Washington’s 39 counties.

This needed to be done sooner rather than later.

It’s important to slow the spread of coronavirus throughout the state and to protect Walla Walla County residents from visitors from Franklin, Benton and Yakima counties, which are all COVID-19 hot spots.

Walla Walla County, which has a lower rate of COVID than those counties, now has more stores and restaurants open. This has created a stream — in some cases a flood — of visitors from outside the area.

Downtown Walla Walla’s streets were packed last weekend with shoppers and diners, a great many — if not a majority — were not wearing masks.

That was also the story at the Town Center mall where shoppers ravaged the inventory as if it were 6 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving.

Marshall’s and Bed, Bath & Beyond, for example, were in serious need of restocking on Monday.

All the out-of-town visitors, while great for the bottom line of merchants and restaurant owners, could well have been spreading COVID-19. If they had all been wearing masks, as the employees at these establishments had already been mandated to do, it could have reduced the risk — and eased concerns.

Now, in the wake of Inslee’s order, visitors and locals must mask up before going out in public.

It is hoped this statewide mandate will reduce the COVID-19 cases and allow Walla Walla County to more quickly get closer to normalcy.

More importantly, it will protect more of us from getting sick with a disease that has proven to be insidious and deadly.

“I think this is the way we need to look at this,” Inslee said. “We just cannot wish this virus to go away. We have to use tools that are available to us that we know, that work.”

Yes, wearing a mask can be annoying, but it’s truly a minor inconvenience. The use of face coverings to protect others is the smart thing to do, and the right thing to do.

Inslee’s order mandating that we all wear masks will ultimately serve the best interests of all Washingtonians.