On Tuesday, June 23, the Secretary of the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) issued a public health order which requires everyone to wear face coverings while in public. The requirement is in effect as of Friday, June 26. Last week the Governor issued an order for Yakima County requiring mask use in public, after widespread COVID-19 in that community overwhelmed its healthcare resources.
We know it may be disconcerting to some in our community who do not routinely wear face coverings. However, we also know this step is necessary.
In the absence of a cure or vaccine, masks, hand-washing and sanitation, and physical distancing are currently the only known effective barriers to the spread of COVID-19.
We had hoped to be able to move from Phase 2 into Phase 3 of the Washington Safe Start phased reopening plan; we are technically eligible to apply on Friday, June 26. However, with the increase in COVID-positive cases, we are not meeting the requirements to move into a phase with fewer restrictions.
How soon we can move out of Phase 2 – more importantly how well we protect our friends and neighbors from COVID-19 – depends on our individual choices about mask use and safe behavior. As a community we are not effectively protecting ourselves and others, or minimizing spread. We know what to do. We have already lost 40 fellow community members to the virus in three months. We owe it to them to do all we can to slow the spread.
For now, we are not ready to move to Phase 3. The increased mask use resulting from the state DOH order will help us get there. It is up to us, as individuals and a community, to do what it is necessary to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19. A collaborative effort and individual compliance with the mask order will help our entire community move toward Phase 3, economic recovery and, most importantly, protect our community from this virus.