Healthcare facilities no longer need masks

State lifts mandate, but some may be optional

PORT TOWNSEND — Wearing a face mask at healthcare facilities will no longer be required by the state Department of Health, but individual facilities may still require masks in certain settings.

A March 31 order from state Secretary of Health Umair Shah lifted the masking requirement for healthcare facilities effective Monday, but Shah said individual facilities, businesses or school districts may still independently require masks in their facilities.

Dr. Allison Berry, the health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties, told the Board of Jefferson County Commissioners on Monday that case rates and hospitalizations from COVID-19 are decreasing nationally and locally.

“The number of people dying (from COVID-19) is decreasing. It’s still about four times what you would see during a bad flu pandemic,” Berry said. “But it’s an improvement from just two weeks ago.”

Berry told commissioners the COVID-19 pandemic is transitioning to more of an endemic phase, meaning the disease would be continuously present in the community. The question, she said, is whether it would be persistently endemic or seasonal like the flu.

“There’s a desire to move back to the days before COVID,” Berry said. “There is no moving back to a world where there is no COVID.”

Despite masking requirements being lifted at healthcare facilities, healthcare providers such as doctors and nurses would likely continue to wear masks when visiting with patients. People who have or live with others who have elevated health risks should continue to consider masking in certain settings, Berry said, as the disease is still active in the community.

Staying up to date on vaccines is the best way to prevent severe infection from COVID-19, Berry said, and new treatments for the disease — dexamethasone and Remdesivir — have proved to be very effective.

There were no hospitalizations in Jefferson County and two in Clallam County, Berry said, and no new deaths to report. According to the state Department of Health, there have been 216 deaths from COVID-19 in Clallam County, 37 in Jefferson County and 15,924 statewide since the beginning of the pandemic.

According to Clallam County’s data, six people died from COVID-19 in February — the last month with data available — and more than 80 percent of deaths from the disease were people 60 and older.

State data reported one death from COVID-19 in February in Jefferson County.

COVID-19 vaccines are widely available in Clallam and Jefferson counties, accessible at most pharmacies or from health care providers.

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Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at peter.segall@peninsuladailynews.com.

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