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Masks mandated across state

Casino shuts, re-opens after worker tests positive

State authorities made wearing face coverings in public mandatory across the state Tuesday, following an outbreak in Yakima County they said threatened to overwhelm the health care system there.

The order came the same afternoon that the 12 Tribes Coulee Dam Casino re-opened after shuttering the business at 7 p.m. five days earlier when a worker there tested positive for COVID-19.

The state mandate, issued Tuesday afternoon from Sec. of Health John Weisman and Gov. Jay Inslee, takes effect Friday.

“As necessary economic activity increases and more people are out in their communities, it is imperative that we adopt further measures to protect all of us,” Inslee said during a press conference Tuesday. “Until a vaccine or cure is developed, this is going to be one of our best defenses.”

Starting Friday, everyone must wear a facial covering when in a public space. This includes both indoor and outdoor public spaces.

Reports of cases increasing in additional counties led the governor and Wiesman to extend the requirement to include the entire state.

One of those counties with surging cases could have been Grant, a county of nearly 100,000 people that had seen an increase of 214 cases in the last 14 days as of Tuesday night, with 479 confirmed cases.

A state benchmark for advancing to the next phase of the Safe Start Washington re-opening plan limits new cases to no more than 25 per 100,000 population in the last two weeks, about an eighth of Grant County’s current “incidence rate.”

The county health authority there had already mandated wearing of masks in public last week.

Both Grant and Okanogan counties are in Phase 2 of the reopening plan, still limiting gatherings to five people.

The casino is in Okanogan County, which a week ago had a rate of 18.7 per 100,000. Tuesday night, county health authorities put it at 49.1. The county has had a total of 88 cases, up from 79 a week ago.

In other local counties that converge in the Grand Coulee Dam area, Douglas is still in a modified Phase 1, with a rate of 30.4 and 13 cases confirmed in the last two weeks.

Lincoln County is in Phase 3 with a rate of 0.0 and no confirmed cases in the last two weeks, according to the state Dept. of Health COVID-19 “dashboard” of statistics.

“The science is clear that when we use face coverings, we limit the spread of droplets being passed on to others when we talk, cough or sneeze. While some of us are wearing face coverings in public, we must increase usage to best control the virus. Washington’s strategy to restart the economy and get people back to work will only be successful if, together, we act safely and follow health recommendations,” Wiesman said.


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