Town on Whidbey Island declares face masks required for residents, tourists

LANGLEY, Wash. -- Mother’s Day Weekend can be busy on Whidbey Island. Those planning to visit Langley are being told to pack protection – face masks.

Langley’s Mayor, Tim Callison, told Q13 News his community was spared the high numbers of COVID-19 infections seen elsewhere. To keep the numbers low Callison exercised his powers to require anyone within the city’s core to cover their face.

“These are front line people standing at the check stand 8 hours a day,” said The Star Store owner, Eugene Felton.

“I hope as a business owner we can survive this because it’s rugged right now,” he added.

About three weeks ago his workers began wearing face coverings that follow national health guidelines. They ask their customers to do the same.

Normally, Whidbey Island would be gearing up for a busy tourist season, but so far Governor Inslee’s stay-at-home orders kept them away.

The few who began trickling in this week prompted local leaders to require everyone working, shopping or doing anything else within a 4-block area of the city’s core to wear face protection.

“We’re trying to work towards to being eligible to apply for a waiver to get our businesses open again,” said Callison

A waiver could convince the state to allow Langley to advance to the next phase in re-opening their economy, but that only happens if visitors play along.

“My mask protects you and your masks protects me,” said Langley city councilperson Christy Korrow.

Inslee’s shutdown forced multiple local events to be cancelled or postponed.

The crowds never came, and it’s been a strain for businesses and government.

“I’m finding we’re recognizing each other by voice,” said neighbor Trilby Coolidge.

It’s the least visitors could do, say locals, to ensure Langley has its own say in a path towards normalcy.

Callison says police aren’t specifically directed to hand down penalties for those ignoring the facemask requirements, but ultimately it will up to an officer’s discretion.

Spring and summer were for the most part the boom season many Island County communities. This season, coronavirus and complacent tourists might instead turn an attempted recovery into a bust.

“We’re going to be greatly changed by going through this experience,” said Coolidge. “My hope is that because we’ve gone through it together as a community, our community will change in positive ways, too.”