Whatcom Unified Command (WUC), the community’s multi-jurisdictional response to COVID-19 locally, has begun distribution of more than 100,000 single-use face masks to area businesses. The free, disposable masks, as well as some durable masks, are meant to help businesses meet state guidelines as they prepare for re-opening. WUC is partnering with local Chambers of Commerce, Downtown Bellingham Partnership and other organizations to distribute masks to businesses opening in Phase 2.
Whatcom County has moved into Phase 2 of the State’s Safe Start plan. In Phase 1, essential businesses such as grocery stores and pharmacies remained open; Phase 2 allows additional businesses to reopen. The masks provided by WUC are intended to serve as an initial supply for businesses, for staff and customers without masks, while businesses establish their own purchasing process for future supplies. These single-use masks will help businesses comply with both the State requirement and the Whatcom County directive.
According to information released by the Governor’s office: “Beginning June 8, all employees will be required to wear a cloth facial covering, except when working alone in an office, vehicle, or at a job site, or when the job has no in-person interaction. Employers must provide cloth facial coverings to employees, unless their exposure dictates a higher level of protection under the Department of Labor and Industries’ safety and health rules and guidance. Refer to Coronavirus Facial Covering and Mask Requirements for additional details. Employees may choose to wear their own facial coverings at work, provided it meets the minimum requirements.”
Whatcom Unified Command is also providing 20,000 KN95 masks to medical and dental offices within Whatcom County, as well as 80,000 procedural masks. This is in response to the donation of masks to WUC by many dental and medical offices at the onset of COVID-19. Providing the offices with this initial supply of masks allows them to open in Phase 2, while then establishing their own supply chain.
Two of WUC’s objectives are to mitigate and prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to support the most vulnerable members of our community. To that end, WUC has also purchased 10,000 durable cloth face coverings for vulnerable populations locally. These masks are being distributed via direct service providers, such as SeaMar Community Health Centers, the Opportunity Council and others.
In Phase 2 of Safe Start Washington, people may gather in groups of five or less. Physical distancing and use of masks, as well as hand washing, sanitizing, and remaining home while ill, are still recommended by the Whatcom County Health Department (WCHD). For more information on resources for businesses and other community groups, visit the state website on resources and recommendations.
To find out more about the distribution of these masks, visit www.bellingham.com/masks.
WUC continues to accept homemade cloth masks donated via designated ballot boxes. Donated masks are sanitized and distributed to essential businesses. To find out more or to donate, contact WUC Logistics, via WUC_Donations@co.whatcom.wa.us.