Media release: Protecting rights of people with disabilities as face-covering directive goes into effect Monday


The directive to wear face coverings while in public goes into effect May 18 to help slow the spread of COVID-19. King County asks people to be mindful that it is not recommended for all community members to wear a face covering – including some people with disabilities.


The King County directive requiring face coverings be worn in public goes into effect Monday, May 18. Health leaders are asking everyone to keep in mind that face coverings should not be worn by everyone and are committed to ensuring that individuals who are unable to safely wear face coverings are not harassed or discriminated against.

Those who are exempt from wearing a face covering include someone who has a physical disability that makes it difficult to easily wear or remove a face covering; someone who has been advised by a medical professional to not wear one; someone who has trouble breathing or cannot remove a face covering without assistance; or someone who is deaf and uses facial and mouth movements as part of communications.

Approximately 33,000 King County residents have an intellectual or developmental disability that could affect their ability to wear a face covering.

“Wearing a face covering is important; if you can, you should. It is also important to understand that some people cannot wear face coverings for health, sensory, or communication reasons. If you meet someone without a face covering, please give them grace. It is not always obvious who has a disability,” said Robin Tatsuda, Executive Director of The Arc of King County, an organization that works to promote and protect the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and actively support their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes.

Public Health – Seattle & King County convened a task force on older adults and people with disabilities to help understand the ways COVID-19 may be impacting people with disabilities and to help inform guidelines and decisions. This includes identifying gaps in data.

“We value the many contributions that people with disabilities have made in our COVID-19 response, and support information and outreach efforts that promote equity and inclusion as we all work to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community,” said Magan Cromar, Director, Developmental Disabilities and Early Childhood Supports Division of the King County Department of Community and Human Services.

More about the face covering directive:
Starting on May 18, most people who live in King County should wear face coverings in most public settings.

This includes buses and light rail, stores, and take-out restaurants – any place inside or outside where you may be within 6 feet of someone who does not live with you.

You do NOT have to use a face covering while walking, exercising, or otherwise being outdoors if you can stay 6 feet away from people who do not live with you. Face coverings can be cloth, scarves, or bandannas. They should cover the nose and mouth.

Some people need special medical-grade masks; please don’t use those if you don’t need to. They can be hard to find.

Case updates

Daily totals for new COVID-19 cases and deaths are available on Public Health’s Data Dashboard webpage, which updates as soon as data are available, typically between 1-3 p.m.

Isolation and quarantine facilities update 

Isolation and quarantine is a proven public health practice for reducing the spread of disease.

Forty-one people are currently staying in King County isolation, quarantine and recovery facilities. The number of residents at King County’s isolation and quarantine sites is included in regular updates provided by Public Health. No other identifying or personal information will be provided.

Additional information 

  • Information about COVID-19 and the response in King County, be sure to check our webpage:
  • Public Health publishes new information frequently through the Public Health Insider blog – please consider becoming a subscriber by choosing the option to “Follow Blog Via Email.”