Health officers: New masking guidelines good reason to get vaccine

New outdoor masking guidelines for fully vaccinated Americans are based on solid evidence and represent another reason to get a COVID-19 shot, North Olympic Peninsula health officials said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued Tuesday new guidance for face coverings, saying those who have been fully vaccinated no longer need to wear a mask outdoors unless they are in a large group of strangers.

“I think it’s very evidence-based,” Clallam County Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry said Wednesday.

“Outdoor transmission is really quite rare, even among unvaccinated people, but especially if you’re fully vaccinated.”

Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke described the new guidelines as a “good direction.”

“I think it’s based on some solid science, and we’re still kind of processing all the implications of it,” Locke said.

Berry said it was “very reasonable” to eschew face coverings in the outdoors unless a person is in a crowd.

“If you find yourself at a large concert, or a parade, it would still be a good idea to wear a mask in those kind of situations,” Berry said.

“The other one that’s coming up is graduations. We will still be expecting masks in those kinds of spaces. But everywhere else, totally fine to go without a mask if you are vaccinated.”

Ten new cases of COVID-19 were reported on the North Olympic Peninsula on Wednesday.

Clallam County added seven cases for a total of 1,212 since March 2020 and 147 so far this month.

Jefferson County added three cases Wednesday for a total of 386 since the pandemic began and 40 in April.

Clallam County’s two-week case rate was 89 per 100,000 and its positivity rate was 4.1 percent.

“Our rate is actually continuing to trend down, which is hopeful,” Berry said.

“Our percent positivity is still a little high, but not as high as it has been.”

Jefferson County had a two-week case rate of 65.8 and its positive rate was 1.7 percent, according to the county health department.

Jefferson County had 11 people in isolation, Locke said.

Clallam County contact tracers had found several recent cases related to large social gatherings.

“That’s always concerning for the possibility of a subsequent spike in infections,” Berry said.

“It looks like most folks at those gatherings were, unfortunately, unvaccinated, so that always poses a risk.”

Vaccination clinics

All Washington residents 16 and older are eligible to be vaccinated and appointments are available at a variety of clinics across the North Olympic Peninsula.

Vaccination clinics can be found at peninsuladailynews.com/news/vaccination-clinics-set-this-week.

“Vaccine availability has really improved,” Locke said in a Wednesday interview.

“If people haven’t scheduled their vaccination, this is the time to do it, in both counties.”

Locke said the new CDC guidelines for masking outdoors comes with “one big caveat.”

“We have to remember that we are in a fourth-wave situation in Washington state,” Locke said.

“So it’s important that people not get carried away. Err on the side of caution, because it’s not much longer.

“We’ve got another month or less of increased transmission risk and then, if we do things right, we should be on the downward slope of the fourth wave,” he added.

“We’re not quite there in Washington state. We still have to be very careful in the next month or so.”

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