May 28, 2020
For Immediate Release
Thomas Locke, MD, MPH, Jefferson County Health Officer
Jefferson County Public Health
On Thursday, May 21, 2020, the Jefferson County Board of Health voted to submit a variance application to the Washington State Department of Health to move to Phase 2 of the Governor’s Safe Start Washington plan. The Board of County Commissioners affirmed this decision the next day and on May 23, 2020, the variance was granted. The Board of Health’s resolution delayed opening of restaurants, in-store retail purchases, and full real estate services until neighboring Clallam and Kitsap counties had done so. All reopened businesses are bound by specific State guidance standards for safe operation, including wearing of cloth masks in certain circumstances. The Jefferson County Health Officer has issued his masking directive to support the change from Phase 1 to Phase 2.
The transition from Phase 1 to Phase 2 is not without risks. While Washingtonians have successfully “flattened the curve” of the first wave of the Coronavirus Pandemic, we have not eradicated the infection. Over 200 new cases of this infection occur in Washington each day. Reopening of restaurants, retail stores and other businesses will stimulate tourism, attract more people to business districts, and increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission. There is a growing recognition that use of facial masks plays a crucial role in preventing the spread of coronavirus.
COVID-19 is spread by respiratory droplets and aerosols – small particle from the respiratory tract or mouth that can be expelled not only during coughing or sneezing, but also during normal speaking. It is now understood that the infection can be spread by people who have no symptoms (asymptomatic and presymptomatic transmission). Cloth facial masks are an effective way of trapping the respiratory droplets and aerosols and preventing the spread of respiratory infections, including coronavirus. To be effective, a high percentage of people must wear masks while indoors in public place and when outdoors and unable to maintain a minimum 6-foot separation from non-household members.
Some people mistakenly believe that masks are purely a personal choice, i.e. that if an individual wants to take the risk of catching COVID-19, they have the right to do so. This is a dangerously mistaken and self-centered belief. The main function of the mask is to protect other people from you, not to protect you from other people. It is a form of what is medically known as “source control”. The mask wearer is the source, infectious respiratory droplets are what is being controlled. Arguing that you have a right not to wear a mask when in close proximity to others is arguing that you have the right to expose them to an infection that can have deadly consequences. Just staying home if you are sick is not enough to control COVID-19 since many people who have the infection do not feel sick and therefore out in public. Masking and physical distancing are the only effective ways to prevent this type of infection until a vaccine can be developed and widely deployed.
Jefferson County Public Health
Always Working for a Safer and Healthier Community