Last week Gov. Jay Inslee announced a statewide mandate requiring facial coverings in public.

The key word in that sentence is “mandate.” Yet, many — too many — have the impression that wearing a face covering to slow the spread of the coronavirus is an option — a choice. It is not.

Inslee’s order, which went into effect Friday after formal action by state Health Secretary John Wiesman, makes not wearing a mask inside public places a misdemeanor. That is punishable by a fine of up to $100 and up to 90 days in jail (RCW 70.05.070).

The governor’s order was essentially sounding an alarm that the COVID-19 situation in Washington state has become more serious, and Washingtonians need to increase their vigilance in regard to slowing the disease’s spread.

It’s highly unlikely anybody is going to jail. In reality, only the most egregious offenders — those purposefully being belligerent as a show of civil disobedience — are likely to be dealt with by the justice system.

Still, this is about being a good citizen and considerate of others.

And that includes being considerate of the business owners and employees where you are shopping or dining. If the public doesn’t fully get on board — and the disease continues to spread — Inslee and the state are likely to crack down on businesses for not enforcing the mask mandate.

Beyond that, don’t create more stress and problems for businesses owners and employees who are already on edge because the pandemic had already caused financial strife.

These folks do not want to argue with you or hear rants about your rights. They want to work — and make a living. Be kind and let them. Wear a mask, which many establishments provide for those who don’t have one.

We are all in this together. This is not an infringement of our rights as society has many mandates for the greater good — the wearing of seat belts or banning of smoking in public places, for example.

Wearing a mask, while not necessarily pleasant, is also not much of a sacrifice to make to reduce the coronavirus and get our world back to normal more quickly.

More importantly, it will also save lives and reduce suffering.

Researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluations say masks can make a difference as their latest model predicts 4,000 fewer deaths in the U.S. through September if 95% of people wear masks all the time in public.

Bottom line is that in Washington state — and also in Oregon starting today — wearing a mask in public is the law. Please wear a mask.