SUNNYSIDE — Even as the number of Yakima County positive COVID-19 cases continues to prove daunting, a countywide gubernatorial mandate issued June 23 is designed to require all residents to wear a face covering in public in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus now crippling the county’s economy.

The mandate was also the topic of conversation leaders had with Governor Jay Inslee during his recent three-hour trip to Yakima, Mayor Francisco Guerrero said.

“I thought we’re going there to talk about finding ways to reopen mom and pop businesses,” the first term mayor recalled.

“Slowing COVID-19 is of highest importance for the health of our community,” Guerrero agrees, “But we wanted to ask him how we can help our small businesspeople who haven’t been able to reopen their shops.”

Guerrero and a small delegation of Yakima Valley leaders met with the Governor on June 16, prior to his statewide face mask mandate announcement. The Governor’s directive originally was targeted at Yakima County, seen as a national hotspot for COVID‑19 infection.

“He said the county’s rising numbers speak for themselves and we’re nowhere close to being ready to even apply for Phase 1.5 status,” Guerrero said of the meeting.

“The pressure is to minimize the spread of the disease, and that means people must wear masks when in public spaces and avoid large gatherings, period,” Guerrero declared.

County leaders included County Commissioner Vickie Baker asking the governor what can be done to help small businesses get back to work.

Guerrero and mayors of Yakima, Selah, and Union Gap invited to meet with the Governor had collaborated on the promotion of the Greater Yakima Chamber of Commerce “Mask Up to Open up” campaign.

“He seemed very interested in that measure, offering find ways to secure funding to expand the reach of that message beyond the current range,” Guerrero added.

“The governor indicated that all businesses must work together to require customers wear mask or not be served,” Guerrero noted.

“We all know small businesses are hurting economically and some may not recover,” Guerrero acknowledged.

“The Governor listened to our concerns but offered no other suggestions,” Guerrero declared.

“He urged us to reiterate on the Yakima Health District and the state Department of Health guidelines,” Guerrero conveyed.

Currently, Sunnyside is considered range zone for COVID-19, with more than 775 cases reported to the Yakima Health District in the past month.

“The Governor was very clear that if we don’t mask up, as well as follow the other related COVID-19 safety guidelines, we won’t be getting past the Phase I anytime soon,” Guerrero communicated.

Since Inslee’s Yakima meeting, he proclaimed that not only Yakima County residents be required to wear face covering in public, the entire state is included in mandate.

Guerrero in support of the governor’s mandatory face mask directive, made his own proclamation urging city resident to join in the Mask Up to Open Up campaign and “…to follow important public health guidelines to reduce the transmission of the novel coronavirus, that causes COVID-19.”

Guerrero said, “We must mask up if we want to open up.”

Julia Hart can be reached at 509-837-4500, ext. 123 or at jhart@sunnysidesun.com

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