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Inslee contracts COVID-19 as Washington health officials again encourage masking indoors

OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee has tested positive for COVID-19, the governor’s office said Wednesday.

“I am experiencing very mild symptoms and am most glad I’m vaccinated and boosted,” Inslee said in a news release. “I hope others consider getting their booster because it’s very effective in preventing serious illness.”

Gov. Jay Inslee joined Lt. Gov. Denny Heck and Spokane Rep. Marcus Riccelli in announcing positive COVID-19 test results on Wednesday.

Inslee is fully vaccinated and received two booster shots, one in October 2021 and one in March 2022. His office said he is working with his doctor to start treatments of Paxlovid, an antiviral treatment used on COVID-19 patients.

Inslee will be working from home, communications director Jaime Smith said.

“Aside from having a slight cough, the governor is feeling well and in typical good spirits,” Smith said.

Heck said he was experiencing “mild but unpleasant symptoms, similar to a bad head cold.”

Heck said in a statement that he was vaccinated and double-boosted and that his symptoms could have been much worse if he wasn’t vaccinated.

This is the second time Heck tested positive, having done so in February with no symptoms.

“Unfortunately COVID-19 reinfections can happen, and that’s another good reason to go and get that booster shot,” Heck said in a statement.

Like Inslee, Heck said he would be starting the antiviral treatment Paxlovid.

Heck’s office said he and Inslee had not been in proximity with one another in recent days, so their cases were unrelated.

Spokane Rep. Marcus Riccelli also announced on Wednesday that he had tested positive for COVID-19.

“I do have symptoms and know they could be much worse,” Riccelli wrote on Twitter. “Very grateful for the vaccine!”

The lawmakers’ diagnoses coincides with rising cases in Washington and the rest of the country. Department of Health officials said Wednesday both cases and hospitalizations are increasing, and because many people are testing at home now, the state numbers could be an undercount.

Deaths related to COVID-19 have not started going up yet, Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah told reporters Wednesday.

Health officials are now recommending everyone wear masks in crowded indoor spaces or places with poor ventilation to prevent the spread of the virus, though the state is not implementing any mask requirement yet.

“This is the time for us to remind ourselves that this pandemic is not over,” Shah said.

Individuals have an opportunity to get ahead of the spread through masking and vaccines, Shah said, but the disease is spreading in most areas of the state.

“We do recognize that none of us are immune to that transmission,” Shah said. “It’s just a matter of time before it gets to other communities.

Along with vaccines, boosters and masking, health officials are recommending anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 to talk with their health provider about the Paxlovid treatment. Paxlovid can be helpful in preventing serious disease from COVID-19, especially for those who are immunocompromised or elderly, said Dr. Bob Lutz, a medical adviser for the Department of Health. The treatment is best used within five days of testing positive.

There is currently plenty of it available across the state for those who may need it, Lutz said.

Laurel Demkovich's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story 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.