ONCE ALL BEARS ARE MASKED, WILL THE REST OF US FOLLOW? The County’s Historical Museum is closed, but people are trudging up North Fourth Street to see this family of masked wooden bears in front of Stuart Hutt’s house. Their masking is for our protection, as is yours for two-leggeds you encounter, in the woods or on the street. Rumor has it the bears will stay masked until widespread testing proves to them they can walk among us safely. – Photo by Ken Stern
Public Health Officer recommendation Skagit County residents: wear masks in public
By Ken Stern Dr. Howard Leibrand, the Skagit County Public Health Officer, last Wednesday reminded residents they should wear a fabric mask in all public situations, including workplaces, at parks and during essential trips to the grocery store or doctor’s office.
The Centers for Disease Control has made the same recommendation nationally.
“Wearing a fabric face covering or mask is a simple action that everyone can take to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect our community,” said Leibrand. “Face masks and coverings help prevent the spread of infection by blocking infectious droplets from entering into the air when a contagious person coughs, sneezes or speaks. We see transmission from people who are asymptomatic all the time, so it’s important that everyone wear a mask, even if they’re feeling well.”
Research shows that masking is most effective at preventing transmission of COVID-19 when a mask is worn by the contagious person. A person can be contagious with COVID-19 and asymptomatic, so everyone wearing masks to prevent the spread is important.
“Wearing a fabric face covering or mask is not only about protecting yourself, it’s about protecting the most vulnerable in our community,” said Jennifer Johnson, Skagit County Public Health director. “I wear a mask because I know that I could be contagious and still not feel sick, and I want to take every precaution to protect my colleagues, friends, family and community.”
As the community returns to some normal operations, including businesses reopening, and face-to-face encounters increase, masking becomes more important than ever. Leibrand and Skagit Public Health continue to urge individuals who are able to do so to wear masks when in public and at work. “We want to return to normal as soon as possible, and reopen many of our small businesses, schools and institutions that have been closed in the fight against COVID-19,” said Skagit County Board of Commissioners Chair Ron Wesen. “Masking is an easy thing we can all do to keep our community healthy as we begin the safe reopening process and helps prevent us from having to go back to stricter physical distancing and isolation guidances. I strongly encourage everyone concerned with the economic well-being of Skagit to wear a mask in public at all times.”
Additionally Leibrand continues to stress good physical distancing and hygiene practices, especially when in public but to stay home as much as possible. When out, remain six feet apart from others you come in contact with, wash your hands frequently and do not touch your face or mask. Further, proper care and cleaning of your mask is equally important. The CDC recommends washing your mask regularly in the same way you wash your clothes.
The Health Department stated its appreciation for everyone who has taken the time to sew their own mask and masks for others. “You’re a vital part of the fight against COVID-19, and we thank you!” their news release stated.
This recommendation applies to all Skagit residents and visitors and is in effect until rescinded by the Health Officer. Information, Skagit Public Health: 360-416-1500.
Source: Skagit Public Health
The statewide Stay Home, Stay Safe mandate in response to the coronavirus has spawned an array of strategies intended to strike a balance between public health and economic concerns.
In La Conner, signage and designated customer waiting spaces have been employed – to mixed reviews – to encourage social distancing in the business district.
Elsewhere in the region, which has been in shutdown mode since March, emergency orders requiring the wearing of masks have been issued by communities similar in size and makeup to La Conner.
Advocates say those remedies lock down mouths and noses, potential sources of COVID-19.
During a wide-ranging discussion part of last week’s La Conner Town Council meeting, Council member Mary Wohleb noted that Langley on south Whidbey Island had adopted an emergency order requiring masks be worn in its core business area.
Friday, a similar order was issued for San Juan County, which includes Friday Harbor.
On that score, La Conner Mayor Ramon Hayes posed the quintessential question as tourists arrived here last weekend.
“How are they enforcing (it)?” he asked.
Turns out, mostly by business compliance. A Langley grocery store, for instance, has announced on social media that no one will be admitted inside without a mask.
In his proclamation, Langley Mayor Tim Callison defines the emergency measure as “My mask protects you. Your mask protects me.”
He said masks worn in Langley’s core business area will provide protection for those employed in essential workplaces.
Callison set the boundaries of the Langley order as Fourth Street to Seawall Park and Park Avenue to Wharf Street.
Dr. Frank James, of the San Juan County Public Health Office sought, and received – by a slim 2-1 vote – the county council’s endorsement of his emergency order.
James took into consideration San Juan County demographics. Over 40 per cent of its population is aged 60 or older.
He said the mask-wearing initiative is intended to prevent re-introduction of COVID-19 in San Juan County by tourists or visitors.
The council vote reflects a split on the mask issue in the islands. Proponents favor the “no mask, no service” approach in commercial zones. Opponents question whether present levels of sickness warrant mask requirements.
La Conner Chamber of Commerce Director Heather Carter said she has not heard of mask-wearing directives being planned for Skagit County.
“Nor has Ramon (Hayes) or the Town Council mentioned it for La Conner,” she said.
There is, however, some conjecture that mask-wearing requirements might become part of the state’s Phase 2 re-opening checklist.
“We like to have everyone take personal responsibility,” Hayes told Council members last week. “We need strategies that encourage people to comply.”
Monday Whatcom County’s Health Department issued a “Local Health Officer Directive that directs everyone to wear cloth face coverings while in any public indoor and outdoor locations.”