SEATTLE - The same COVID-19 variant pushing Los Angeles County to once again require facemasks in indoor settings is also growing fast right here in Washington.
Healthcare leaders insist the situation in our region is not nearly as dire, but say the delta variant spreads with greater ease and may cause more serious infection for those who have yet to be vaccinated.
As tourists surge back to the Pacific Northwest, at least one healthcare official says everyone should continue wearing face masks.
On Friday, Gov. Inslee Governor Jay Inslee said at this moment there are no plans to revert facemask requirements for indoor gatherings. The delta variant is growing faster across our region and state health officials plan to keep a close watch on the data.
Except for a few people wearing face coverings at Seattle’s Pike Place Market, the scene could look like a normal summer tourist season.
"I like it out here," said Ruben Guzman who is in town visiting family.
Market officials told Q13 News facemasks are not required, but businesses operating inside could require customers wear one.
Guzman says the difference between those wearing masks in Seattle and those who do home is striking.
"I’m from California," he said. "It’s pretty crazy over there."
Anyone in Washington already fully vaccinated no longer has to wear face coverings to comply with health guidelines. Even though the more infectious delta variant is gaining ground among the unvaccinated here in Washington, health officials at the state Department of Health do not yet see a need that facemasks return.
"We’re looking at the data before we make that determination," said Dr. Bob Lutz, a state COVID-19 medical advisor.
"We are seeing a rise in summer and that’s a warning sign for all of us," Dr. Ali Mokdad told Q13 News.
Mokdad from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation says now should be the time everyone digs out their masks to fight together against the aggressive variant.
He says, seeing people gathering together as if the pandemic is over could leave some with a notion the crisis has faded.
"I bet you the number inside without a mask is much higher than those who have received a shot or two shots," he said.
The health officials who spoke to Q13 News said reaching 70% vaccination rate for those eligible is an achievement worth celebrating. But, their continued goal is to eliminate the pain and suffering for those who have yet to receive inoculation.
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