Health officer: Masks prime component of Phase 3 success

PORT TOWNSENDHealth Officer Dr. Tom Locke is confident in Jefferson County’s ability to move into Phase 3 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start program so long as people continue to maintain social distancing practices and wear masks.

“The science is telling us that masks will be crucial for us to move forward with Phase 3 openings,” Locke said.

The Jefferson County Board of Health will meet at 2:30 p.m. today to discuss possibly applying for Phase 3, as well as viewing racism as a public health issue.

Phase 3 will allow groups of 50 or fewer to gather, restaurants to operate at 75 percent capacity and gyms, movie theaters, libraries, museums and government buildings to open at 50 percent capacity.

“All of that creates more opportunity to be exposed to the virus, and we now know that 40-to-50 percent of people with the virus don’t have symptoms, so they don’t even know they’re infected and are out there in the community,” Locke said.

”But if they’re wearing masks, they won’t spread it to other people.”

Everyone who does not have a medical exemption should wear a face covering, Locke said.

“People who see this as some sort of personal choice or expression of individual liberty or, worst of all, some kind of political expression, they have to get past that. This has nothing to do with politics and has everything to do with biology.”

The bottom line according to Locke is that if people can’t wear masks while the county moves into Phase 3 and cases go up, things will go back to Phase 2 or earlier.

“If we’re not successful at convincing more people to wear masks, and maintain physical distance and consistent hand-washing, Phase 3 won’t last,” Locke said. “We only move forward if we can control the infection.”

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Reporter Ken Park can be reached at kpark@peninsuladailynews.com.

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