A protective mask hanging on a front door. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald)

A protective mask hanging on a front door. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald)

Snohomish County reactions to the official end of state’s mask mandate

The Herald is also continuing to compile readers’ reflections on the COVID pandemic.

EVERETT — It has been official since Monday: No more government mask mandates in Washington.

A full year ago, an Axios-Ipsos national poll found 73% of Americans thought COVID was “a problem, but manageable,” while just 9% thought it was “a serious crisis.”

So for whom is COVID just a problem, a crisis, or not a problem at all, as the poll asked?

In March, some Snohomish County residents shared concerns at health department meetings about their young children, people at higher risk of complications, and the unknowns of “long COVID.” Local health departments have the authority to institute mask mandates.

Alex Campbell lives in Lynnwood and works as a mental health therapist in Edmonds. She also lives with an immune deficiency. The mask mandate in health care facilities has allowed her to feel relatively safe when she needs care.

“I want to go to the doctor and not come out sicker than I was before,” she told The Daily Herald.

Professionally, masks allow her to do more in-person sessions with the germy children and youth she treats. She will continue to require masks in her office, with very limited exceptions, so she can be a “consistent and reliable therapist.”

Thankfully for Campbell, many health care providers in the Puget Sound region will continue to require masks on patients, staff and visitors in clinical areas — also called “universal masking.” That includes Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, Swedish Edmonds, EvergreenHealth Monroe, and clinics like The Everett Clinic and Western Washington Medical Group.

A concerned dad and husband in unincorporated Snohomish County, who asked for anonymity to protect his family’s health privacy, said he supported a government mask mandate in health care.

“I have a 6-year-old who is at increased risk of complications, and my husband is a veteran, who is disabled from burn pits. He has lung damage,” he said. They worry that, without masking, the doctors’ visits will place him at risk.

He has sent emails and made phone calls through Seattle Still Cares to local and state public health officials about keeping the mandate in place. As of April 6, the group’s website showed 494 emails sent to Gov. Jay Inslee, Secretary of Health Umair Shah, and other government and health care leaders. Nearly 1,900 people sent a similar, earlier email to the governor and secretary. Phone banks have filled the voicemail of the state Department of Health.

But some folks just don’t agree with government mask mandates.

Steve Harding, of Everett, is glad the mandates are over. A retiree and Army veteran, he is an active grandparent of four.

“It is my opinion that the government made a huge overreach requiring masks (particularly for young children),” he wrote.

If community transmission levels increase to “high,” masking would be required in health care facilities, according to Centers for Disease Control guidelines now followed by Washington. Currently Snohomish County’s level is “low.”

Folks can continue to find county-level data on the state’s COVID dashboard: doh.wa.gov/emergencies/covid-19/data-dashboard. Hospitalization and death rates — not case rates — remain reliable indicators of prevalence.

Wastewater measurements also are useful for spotting trends, according to the health department. On the dashboard, the relevant facility codes for Snohomish County include: APP, ARL, BWT, EVR, and STAN. That data doesn’t currently indicate an upward trend of illness.

What do you think?

Do you have a COVID comment, story or question that you’d like to share as the federal COVID public health emergency nears the end? From serious to lighthearted, The Herald will compile readers’ thoughts to share in the near future. forms.gle/wwg2VLfCTxgaKv7b6

Joy Borkholder is the health and wellness reporter for The Daily Herald. Her work is supported by the Health Reporting Initiative, which is sponsored in part by Premera Blue Cross. The Daily Herald maintains editorial control over content produced through this initiative.

Joy Borkholder: 425-339-3430; joy.borkholder@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @jlbinvestigates.

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