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Spokane County urging people to wear masks in indoor public places

Dr. Bob Lutz said the directive makes masks "strongly recommended" in Spokane County. But it is not enforceable.

Editor's note: Above video was published before the mask directive went into effect 

SPOKANE, Wash —  Spokane County is urging people to wear masks in indoor public places to curb the spread of coronavirus. 

A directive on face coverings from Spokane County Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz goes into effect on Wednesday.

Lutz added that the wearing of masks in places where physical distancing is difficult is "strongly recommended" but not enforceable. Those who do not wear masks won't face citations or arrests. 

“It’s not a mandate. There’s not going to be a police force. …But I think it’s the right thing to do," he said.

People should wear face coverings in confined spaces such as grocery stores, pharmacies or restaurants, but it is not necessary to wear a mask outdoors, Lutz said. Health officials are also asking local businesses to post signage encouraging people to wear masks.

“Nobody gives you the right to harm somebody," Lutz said. "I would argue, I think, if you’re in a confined space and wearing a mask, you’re not harming somebody. You’re actually helping somebody.”

The following individuals do not need to comply with the directive: 

  • Any child aged two years or less
  • Any child aged 12 years or less unless parents and caregivers supervise the use of face coverings by children to avoid misuse
  • Any individual who has a physical disability that prevents easily wearing or removing a face covering
  • Any individual who is deaf and uses facial and mouth movements as part of communication or an individual who is communicating with a person who is deaf and uses facial and mouth movements as part of communication
  • Any individual who has been advised by a medical professional that wearing a face covering may pose a risk to that individual for health related reasons
  • Any individual who has trouble breathing or is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the face covering without assistance.

Read the full directive here

There is strong evidence that suggests wearing masks drives the curve lower and flatter, Lutz said last week.

RELATED: Ice cream trucks not allowed until Phase 2 of Washington reopening plan

Just wearing a mask is not enough: health officials say people need to continue to practice social distancing and proper hygiene. It's also important to properly wear your mask and change it out if its dirty. 

A snug mask with more layers is the most effective, but a thin, loose mask is better than nothing. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization said at the start of the outbreak that masks were not needed by the general public.

But the CDC issued a new recommendation in early April that everyone should wear their own homemade cloth face coverings, citing more than half of a dozen of new studies.

“Science has changed. The information has changed. This actually protects you from me and, likewise, you wearing a mask protects me from you," Lutz said on Wednesday.

Where can I find a mask?

More retailers are selling cloth face coverings online and in stores.

Spokane County United Way is offering a way to link people who need face coverings to those who make them through the Washington Mask Challenge. The website also provides information on how to make and clean masks.

How to make your own masks with our without a sewing machine

Things you will need (sewing machine mask)  

  • sewing machine
  • thread
  • bandana or cotton fabric 
  • scissors
  • elastics or hair ties

Things you will need (no-sew mask)

  • bandana or cotton fabric 
  • elastics or hair ties

KING 5 and TEGNA staff contributed to this report. 

RELATED: How to make your own face mask without a sewing machine

RELATED: A closer look at shifting CDC recommendations on face masks