WA Health Leaders Urge Indoor Masking
Lucas Combos,Patch Staff
SEATTLE — Local health officers representing counties across the state joined hospital leaders in a joint letter Friday, urging Washingtonians to resume masking in populated indoor spaces, citing "an unprecedented surge" in respiratory illnesses, including RSV, COVID-19 and the flu.
The recommendations were signed by a dozen public health officers, including those in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, along with health care executives from a half-dozen hospital systems.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, positive RSV tests in Washington have tapered off in recent weeks but remain higher than last season's peak. The flu season got off to an early start, and activity remains very high. The state Department of Health on Friday said 26 people have died from influenza complications to date, including three children.
On Thursday, UW Medicine warned of a "historically severe" start to the flu season, with hospitalizations higher than any year since 2011 for this time of year.
Health officials expect the flu will continue to circulate for several months, posing elevated health risks for young children, adults 65 and older, those who are pregnant, and patients with health conditions like asthma, heart disease or diabetes.
While COVID-19 activity has remained relatively low and stable in recent weeks, officials are concerned that new variants and waning immunity could lead to another surge in cases in the near future.
"As health officers and health care leaders working to improve the health of Washington residents, we recommend that everyone wear a high-quality, well-fitting mask when around others in indoor spaces to protect against both acquiring and spreading these infections to others," the letter reads in part. "We also urge everyone who is eligible to stay up to date on your vaccinations."
Other recommendations in the letter include:
- Staying home from work and school and testing for COVID-19 if you develop symptoms.
- Having a plan for rapid treatment for COVID-19 and influenza for people who are at increased risk for severe infections.
- Improving indoor air quality through ventilation, filtration, and UV technology where appropriate.