‘Take it seriously’: SRHD, CDC recommend masks in Spokane County

SPOKANE, Wash. – If you’re heading to the store or the movies, you may want to have a mask handy again. Masks are now recommended in Spokane County.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Spokane County’s risk is in the “high” category right now. Spokane Regional Health Officer Frank Velazquez says there’s been a six-percent increase in the case rate.

As of late last week, SRHD said there are 173.4 cases per 100,000 people. That’s up from 162.3 cases per 100,000 people from the week before. Velazquez says they’ve been recommending masks for the last three weeks, keeping an eye on numbers as more people contract COVID

“It is not uncommon to see a little bit of an increase,” Velazquez says of big events coming through town and the increase in COVID cases.

Shopper Martin Hoffman walked around downtown Spokane Tuesday afternoon without a mask. He believes wearing one should be a personal choice, though, he’d put one on if it’s required.

“I think if you’re in a category, a high-risk category, diabetes or anything like that, I really think you should take that into consideration. But to have everybody from small children to really healthy people like ourselves, I don’t see a need,” Hoffman said.

Meanwhile, Boots Bakery owner Alison Collins is worried about the increase in cases.

Her staff has been masked since the start of the pandemic, a team decision, she said. Though masks are recommended, she’s not asking customers to put one on just yet.

“I think we’d wait until that became a mandate again, just because it’s too much energy and fight for people,” she said. “With just a suggestion, I doubt we would do that. We’ll continue masking because it works for us.”

Collins said there hasn’t been any in-house transmission between her staff. She also added that none of her staff contracted the virus for about two years until most recently.

Velazquez believes even more people in the community have contracted COVID compared to what’s being reported. He attributes it to at-home COVID tests, which he says are good, but sometimes people won’t report them. Other times, people won’t take a test if they know they’ve been in close contact with someone and also have symptoms.

Even though some are not reporting COVID-19 cases, the health district is able to see what transmission is like in the community due to COVID wastewater testing.

Regardless, he’s asking people to mask up to help lower transmission, get vaccinated and be nice to others who do want to wear a mask.

“Take it seriously. Be mindful of it. Be supportive of those who are wearing their masks because you don’t know their conditions,” he said.

READ: CDC recommends 6 Washington counties should wear masks again