With COVID-19 infections rising rapidly in the county and across the country, Jefferson County health officials are recommending a return to wearing face masks in public spaces to help limit the …
With COVID-19 infections rising rapidly in the county and across the country, Jefferson County health officials are recommending a return to wearing face masks in public spaces to help limit the spread of coronavirus.
“We are seeing cases rising nationwide,” Jefferson County Public Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry told county commissioners Monday.
Cases have increased by
172 percent nationwide, and there has been a 57 percent increase in hospitalizations.
The amount of deaths attributed to COVID-19 has also risen, by
In Washington state, the infection rate has gone up 133 percent, Berry said.
Ten new infections were reported over the weekend in Jefferson County, Berry said, and the total number of cases was 493 Monday.
“We have five new cases since that number was calculated,” she added. “We anticipate that number is going to go up more in the next few days.”
The masking recommendation will include those who are vaccinated but are gathering in public spaces.
People who have not gotten vaccinated are largely the reason for the increase in infections.
As people who have been vaccinated return to pre-pandemic activities without face masks, the unvaccinated have done the same.
“New cases of COVID-19 are driven primarily by unvaccinated people who are gathering indoors unmasked,” Berry said.
Berry said the need for masking will extend to schools in the fall, with students wearing masks with the return of in-person, on-site learning.
Masks are vital because there are only a few tools available to stem the spread of COVID-19; vaccines, masking, and lockdowns.
“So we have to lean on the first two,” Berry said.
“It’s the least economically devastating option we can do to get numbers under control,” she added. “I know it’s a change but we’ve done it before.”
Dr. Tom Locke, the county’s deputy public health officer, agreed.
“The status quo is not working,” Locke said.
The societal norm needs to go back to wearing masks, he said, unless businesses and other places where people gather indoors take steps to verify people’s vaccination status.
“The main thing I would add and what people really need to understand the Delta variant is a real game-changer in our management of the pandemic,” Locke said.
“The more we find out about this virus the more worrisome it becomes,” he added.
One study showed the viral loads for the Delta variant were a thousand times greater than earlier forms of coronavirus.
People are also becoming infectious sooner; four days instead of six days.
Locke said there will be more talk in the weeks ahead about mandates for getting vaccinated, as well as the continued verification of one’s vaccination status.
“Things are going to be changing,” Locke said.
Health officials had been hoping for a summertime lull in infections, he added.
“But it’s not happening,” Locke said.
“If we don’t do something now, they will go up even more rapidly,” he said of COVID-related case counts.
Commissioners wondered what changes the county should make to safeguard workers and visitors to the county courthouse.
People entering the building must currently show a vaccination card or sign a form attesting they have been vaccinated.
Commissioner Kate Dean said officials would talk later in depth about how any COVID-related restrictions would be implemented.
“A big ship turns slowly,” Dean said.