By Marcy Stamper
Although state health officials warn that the number of COVID infections indicates Washington could be entering a fourth wave of the disease, new guidelines highlight more opportunities for people to resume normal activities, particularly outdoors.
The safest things for people to do — whether they’ve been vaccinated or not — are outdoor activities like walking, running or cycling with members of their household, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in guidelines released Tuesday (April 27).
For vaccinated people, there are even more ways to enjoy pre-pandemic pastimes. They can dine outdoors without a mask. It’s safe for them to attend a crowded outdoor concert or sporting event, although the CDC still recommends a mask in large groups.
People can also safely gather outdoors with a small group of friends or family. Those who haven’t been vaccinated should still wear a mask, the CDC said.
Indoors, it’s safe for vaccinated people to gather with friends or family from multiple households, even if not everyone has been vaccinated. If everyone has been vaccinated, they don’t need to wear a mask, and people can even hug their friends and family. Precautions like masks should be based on whether any of the unvaccinated people are at high risk for serious disease, the CDC said.
Vaccinated people can go to the movies or hang out at a bar or restaurant — but they should still wear a mask as a precaution, in part because there’s a small risk of transmitting COVID to someone who hasn’t been vaccinated, the CDC said.
The riskiest activities for people who haven’t been vaccinated yet are going to the movies, an indoor bar or restaurant, or joining a high-intensity exercise class. Going to a crowded outdoor performance or sporting event is also considered risky for unvaccinated people.
Washington state still requires everyone — workers and customers, regardless of vaccination status — to wear a mask in stores and other businesses.
“We’d like to be done with the virus, but the virus is not done with us,” Gov. Jay Inslee said at a news conference last week.
Washington has already seen three surges of COVID, and knocked each one back through protocols like masking, social distancing and limiting contacts, Inslee said. While health officials are concerned that the current uptick is starting from a higher number of cases than the previous three waves, the increase in new infections is not as steep because of the rate of immunity from vaccination, he said.
The state is now seeing more young people become infected with COVID — and end up in the hospital, Inslee said. Most of the younger people being hospitalized have co-morbidities such as diabetes, obesity or lung disease. Many young people suffer the effects of COVID for months, he said.
Okanogan County numbers
Okanogan County recorded 24 new COVID infections in the week ending April 25. A full breakdown of cases by location was not available as of press time, but none of the reported cases were in the Methow Valley.
Worrisome COVID outbreaks are still occurring, sickening large numbers of people. Okanogan County Public Health pointed to an outbreak reported in Ferry County last week, where at least 71 people were infected with COVID after they or a close contact attended an event in Republic.
The state will evaluate disease and hospitalization metrics in all counties on Monday (May 3) to determine if it’s safe for a county to remain in Phase 3 of reopening, or if stricter measures are needed to control the spread of COVID.
The numbers are evaluated every three weeks. Okanogan County’s numbers currently appear to meet the metrics for remaining in Phase 3.