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Mask mandate remains in health care settings

June 22, 2021 Updated Tue., June 22, 2021 at 11:58 a.m.

 (Molly Quinn / The Spokesman-Review)
(Molly Quinn / The Spokesman-Review)

While you are free to go without a mask in public once you are fully vaccinated in Washington, health care settings are still asking employees, patients and visitors to wear masks.

“Masks are still required in all health care settings, and it’s for the protection of those being cared for,” Cassie Sauer, CEO at the Washington State Hospital Association, told reporters on Monday.

Sauer added that both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Department of Health both require use of masks in these settings, including hospitals and long-term care facilities. 

Hospitals continue to see some COVID-19 patients who require intensive care. Hospital leaders said Monday that their COVID patients are predominantly those who chose not to get vaccinated.

“The folks that are in our hospitals now are unvaccinated, it’s rare for us to see a vaccine breakthrough,” Dr. Michael Anderson, chief medical officer at Virginia Mason-Franciscan Health, said.

While hospitalizations have significantly declined statewide, especially in older populations who have been vaccinated at higher rates, Anderson said the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations has appeared to level off at about 40 patients throughout the Virginia Mason-Franciscan Health system. But this plateau signifies that the pandemic is still not over.

“The virus is still in the community, and it’s still being spread,” Anderson said. 

With the more highly transmissible Delta variant beginning to circulate in the state, he added that the risk for those who are unvaccinated continues to be high.

“The people being hospitalized are much younger, because the over 65 population took heed and got vaccinated, we’re seeing the younger populations, and they are just as sick as those we focused on early on,” Anderson said.

As of June 19, 64% of the state population over the age of 12 have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. In Spokane County, nearly 52% of the population ages 12 and older have received at least one dose of a vaccine.

Here’s a look at local numbers:

The Spokane Regional Health District confirmed 35 new COVID-19 cases on Monday and 100 additional cases over the weekend.

The district reported no new deaths.

There are 40 patients hospitalized in Spokane hospitals with the virus.

The Panhandle Health District confirmed 69 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend and on Monday as well as six additional deaths.

There have been 313 deaths in Panhandle residents due to COVID-19.

There are 21 Panhandle residents currently hospitalized with the virus.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is primarily funded by the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, with additional support from Report for America and members of the Spokane community. These stories can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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