Wear face coverings. Observe social distancing protocols. Wash hands frequently.
By now that should be a familiar refrain, but it also should be a rallying cry for us to regroup to slow the spread of COVID-19.
We seem to have had a lull in our collective vigilance after working hard to earn the variance to enter Phase 2 of the governor’s Safe Start plan to reopen the economy. Perhaps too many of us thought most of the work was done, and the pandemic was over.
The mission is far from accomplished.
What should be over, however, is the debate regarding whether to follow the governor’s mandate to wear face masks. A growing body of science shows that wearing face masks makes a difference. A prominent health care executive here who’s familiar with the science says that 100% use of masks equals 100% economic reopening.
Without widespread observance of the mandates to reduce the spread of the virus, we risk regressing to some of the painful lockdowns of Phase 1 that caused some businesses to close permanently. Many more businesses likely wouldn’t be able to endure another lockdown.
When Spokane County received state approval to move into Phase 2, there had been an average of less than three confirmed new cases of COVID-19 a day for the preceding three weeks. Since May 21, however, there have been an average of more than 20 confirmed cases daily in the county. Earlier this week we had a record 79 cases in one day.
Health officials insist the increase in cases can’t be attributed solely to increased testing. And hospital officials are worried the current surge in COVID-19 cases will lead to a strain on our hospital resources, which in turn could result in an escalation of coronavirus-related deaths.
This should sound familiar. It’s the same list of concerns that compelled communities throughout the U.S. to shut down earlier this year.
As of this week, the latest University of Washington COVID-19 model is projecting that a universal mask mandate would save more than 24,000 lives throughout the U.S. by Oct. 1, including over 400 lives in Washington state alone. The UW model also projects the state’s mask mandate could help reduce new daily infections by nearly 90% by Oct. 1.
While some people have legitimate medical reasons for not wearing masks, and we should take care not to shame them, those who can wear a mask should.
It’s not about politics. We all have personal freedoms, but with freedoms comes responsibility.
Simply put, your facemask protects me, and mine protects you.
So, while scientists search for treatments and vaccines, we all can play a part in saving lives now by using the most effective tools we have on hand to slow the spread of the virus: face masks, social distancing, and frequent hand-washing. This should be the norm until the pandemic truly is over.
Without such vigilance, the pain and sacrifice we’ve endured so far by closing down the economy during this pandemic will be in vain.