Masks required for unvaccinated
Washington state will completely reopen for business and recreation in just one week, on June 30 – or even sooner, if 70% of people 16 and older are vaccinated.
Most places – restaurants, bars and grocery stores – will be fully open. “People who are vaccinated can go along with their regular lives, for the most part,” the Washington Department of Health (DOH) said.
Unvaccinated people will still be required to wear masks, and individual businesses can require face coverings and other precautions. There are some protective measures required for workers, depending on the industry.
Masking and other safety protocols still apply in higher-risk settings like health care, long-term care facilities, and places where many people are not yet able to be vaccinated, like child care and day camps.
There will still be occupancy limits for large indoor events like sports, concerts and conventions, DOH said.
The vaccination rate in Okanogan County is inching up slowly, with 44% of the county’s population now fully vaccinated, according to Okanogan County Public Health.
Public Health has compiled vaccination statistics by town, which show a wide range of immunization levels, from 73% to 31%. Brewster had the highest vaccination rate, at 73% of residents, as of June 13. Winthrop was next, with 67%. In Twisp, 53% of residents have been fully vaccinated. In Carlton and Mazama, it’s 56%. Methow has among the lowest vaccination rates in the county, at 33%.
The vaccination data come from the Washington State Immunization Information System and include all COVID vaccinations administered since Dec. 15. The data count complete immunizations, whether from a one-dose or two-dose shot.
The data include approximately 3,200 agricultural workers who are in the county on H-2A visas. They are counted based on the ZIP code where they currently reside. Because most of those individuals work for growers in Brewster and Tonasket, who’ve partnered with Public Health to test and vaccinate the workers when they arrive, the vaccination rate for Brewster is especially high, said Jessica Kuzma, who handles communications for Public Health.
The high vaccination rate in Brewster also results from extensive work by Family Health Centers, Three Rivers Hospital and Public Health, who’ve conducted outreach in Spanish and English through growers, schools and churches, Kuzma said.
Some areas where few people are vaccinated are remote, including Wauconda, which has the lowest vaccination rate in the county, at 31%. But only 32% of Okanogan residents have been vaccinated, and only 37% in Omak.
To help increase access to vaccines, North Valley Hospital has been sending mobile vaccine clinics to the Aeneas Valley, Wauconda, Molson, Chesaw and Loomis every three weeks, Kuzma said.
The county data don’t include vaccines given by the Indian Health Service.
Statewide, 67.8% of the population aged 16 and older had been vaccinated as of June 22, according to DOH. The number is lower than what’s reported by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (71.9%), which uses different population estimates and different statistics for veterans and military personnel, DOH said.
County cases slow
New COVID infections in Okanogan County dropped by more than half this week, with just 20 cases reported in the week ending June 20. Two of the cases were in Twisp.
The rate of infections per 100,000 population over two weeks was 160, down from 195 last week. The total number of cases in the county is 2,744. Deaths from the disease remain at 37.
Where to get your free vaccine
Free vaccines for everyone 12 and older will be available at a walk-in clinic every Friday through July 23, from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m., at the Okanogan County Fairgrounds. People don’t need an appointment, but youths from 12 to 17 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Clinics throughout the county are offering free vaccines, including Family Health Centers in Twisp. Call (800) 660-2129 for an appointment.
For more information, go to okanogancountycovid19.org and click on Vaccine Locator.