County health officials want masks left on for now


Last updated 6/2/2021 at 7:50am

Grant County health officials are asking people to still wear a mask, even if you’re vaccinated, because too few have gotten vaccinations.

The recommendations came Tuesday evening with a list of reasons for the decision.

Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has relaxed its recommended safety measures, most notably not requiring masks when outdoors unless in very crowded areas and requiring no masks for fully vaccinated persons, even indoors.

But Grant County is lagging the nation in vaccine uptake, with only 35.8% of its people having had at least one shot, compared with 62.85 nationally, according to the CDC.

“In spite of this guidance from CDC, the Grant County Health Officer and the Grant County Health District (GCHD) staff recommend that, at least for the next 4 weeks, masks should continue to be worn by everyone in Grant County, including by those who are fully vaccinated, in all indoor spaces and in outdoor spaces where distancing cannot be assured. Social distancing of 6 feet is also still recommended as the safest practice. This guidance will be reassessed by the Health Officer weekly and additional information provided depending on changes in COVID activity in Grant County,” a release stated last night.

The district gave a list of rationale for the move:

County vaccination rates are low, but improving (goal is to have 70% of those eligible fully vaccinated);

Even though COVID vaccine does not provide 100% protection, more than 95% of those becoming ill with COVID in Grant County are not vaccinated;

Regional hospitalization rates due to COVID and ICU use remain high; 

Rates of COVID-19 in Grant County are dropping slowly, while remaining above 200 cases in the last two weeks;

Concern about a continued high rate of hospitalizations and ICU use for COVID and non-COVID patients;

COVID-19 cases in Grant County caused by more infectious variants, including B117 (UK), B1429 (California) and P1 (Brazil), are affecting younger individuals and have been responsible for more sickness and hospitalizations;

There is no practical way to determine who is vaccinated and who is not; low vaccination increases risk.

“Considering our current COVID indicators and the pandemic’s behavior in Grant County, it is prudent to continue masking,” the district release stated. “We trust that our residents and visitors continue masking and vaccinating. Improving vaccination rates will make removing restrictions and recommendations about masking easier.”

The district noted that the state Dept. of Labor and Industries announced policies last week that require masks in all workplaces or checking and documenting vaccination status of employees.

Going one step further last week was the Colville Tribal Federal Corp., parent company of the 12 Tribes casinos, announcing it will check vaccine status for customers as well as employees. Unvaccinated customers and employees are required to wear a mask and be screened for symptoms on entry to their casinos and other workplaces.

Youth in the county are taking vaccines at a rate that reflects a national trend, with 48% of people in the 12- to 15-year-old brackets having had their first jab.


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