WA public health officials urge again to mask indoors amid 'triple outbreak'

WA public health officials urge again to mask indoors amid ‘triple outbreak’

It’s time, Washingtonians: You should start wearing a mask indoors regularly, if you haven’t already.

The new guidelines from 12 county health workers and 25 hospital leaders are fueled by the surge in viral respiratory illnesses in the region and the country – primarily influenza and RSV, although COVID-19 numbers are starting to rise. go back up. Children’s hospitals in particular, including Seattle Children’s, have been overcapacity for months with the highest patient volumes many longtime employees say they have ever seen.

The flu is expected to continue circulating for months, officials said on Friday.

“As health workers 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 other people in spaces. indoors to protect against both acquiring and spreading these infections to others,” according to the advisory.

Signatories include King County Public Health Officer Dr. Jeff Duchin; Dr. James Lewis of the Snohomish Health District; Dr. Anthony LT Chen of the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department; and health workers from Thurston, Clallam, Jefferson, Whatcom, San Juan, Clark, Pacific, Skamania, Kittitas and Kitsap counties.

Hospital leaders and state leaders from UW Medicine, Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, MultiCare Health System, Kaiser Permanente Washington, Seattle Children’s, Providence Swedish and the Washington State Hospital Association also signed the recommendation. .

Earlier this week, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encouraged everyone to return to familiar masking routines, especially on public transit and during airport trips, as COVID, the flu and RSV are converging in a “triple epidemic”.

Few jurisdictions nationwide appear to be actively reconsidering mask mandates, though Los Angeles County health officials said this week that a new order could be implemented in January if hospitalizations worsen. , according to the Los Angeles Times. However, many local health officials, including those in Oregon, Colorado, New York and Massachusetts, have begun strongly recommending that people wear masks indoors.

In Washington, flu deaths continue to rise. As of Friday, 26 residents had died of the flu, including three children.

The flu is generally most dangerous for children under 5 – especially those under 2 – and adults over 65, pregnant women and anyone living with another health condition, including asthma, diabetes or heart disease, depending on the advice.

COVID cases and hospitalizations, which had been trending downward for months, are also showing signs of increasing again, according to state data. Since early November, the state has gone from about 42 to about 64 COVID hospitalizations per day.

Because emergency rooms are so full of patients, doctors recommend going to an urgent care clinic instead if you have any non-life-threatening injuries or illnesses, including coughs, breathing wheezing, sore throat, mild dehydration or fever. If you are experiencing difficulty breathing, loss of consciousness, severe dehydration, or other urgent symptoms, doctors always recommend ER.

It’s important to use multiple layers of protection against illness this season, health officials and hospital leaders said. In addition to getting the flu and COVID shots, Washingtonians should also stay home from work and school when sick, have a quick COVID and flu treatment plan for those at home. increased risk of serious illness and improve indoor air quality, according to the notice. .

“This joint statement from a broad coalition of public health and healthcare professionals is an indication of our shared level of concern,” King County Public Health Officer Duchin said in a separate statement. “There are simple and effective actions that can and should be taken at the community level to reduce serious illness and health system impacts during this respiratory virus season.”

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