Spread Compassion, Not COVID-19
Posted on 06/08/2020

Both the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control have recently changed the advice on face coverings saying they should be worn in public where social distancing is not possible. Previous guidance was that only people who were ill should use face covers. However, recent studies indicate that people who are not actively symptomatic can spread the virus. This is why wearing face coverings in areas with high rates of community transmission may help – not so much to protect the person wearing the cover, but rather to protect others in case someone has the virus without realizing it.

Benton and Franklin Counties have significant community-based transmission. Health Officer Dr. Amy Person has issued a Health Officer Directive for the public to use face coverings to reduce the spread of COVID-19 illness in our counties.

Governor Inslee has also directed all employers to require face coverings for their employees except when they are working alone https://www.governor.wa.gov/sites/default/files/SafeStartPhasedReopening.pdf. Businesses are encouraged to require customers to wear cloth face coverings, in order to protect employees from exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace. BFHD has sign options available to print and post. Choose from mask sign option 1mask sign option 2 and Spanish mask sign.

Both directives are in effect as of June 8, 2020.

Spread kindness… not COVID! If everyone who is able to wear a face covering in Benton and Franklin Counties does so, our transmission rates will drop and we will be able to more quickly propel our counties into the next Phase of Governor Inslee’s Safe Start Washington plan. Our higher case counts serve as a reminder that we need to continue to maintain physical distancing, wear face coverings where physical distancing cannot be maintained, avoid large gatherings, and follow good hand hygiene.

The local directive applies to all indoor public places in Benton and Franklin Counties, including grocery stores and other businesses, as well as outside settings where maintaining six feet of physical distancing is difficult (like farmers markets). While there are no penalties for not complying with the Health Officer’s Directive, individuals are strongly urged to wear face coverings over their nose and mouth. 

A staffer for the World Health Organization (WHO) recently made a remark about asymptomatic transmission that has caused some confusion; WHO issued clarification on June 9. They did not mean to imply that asymptomatic transmission does not occur. Most transmission appears to be from symptomatic persons, but studies have still shown transmission from both pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic persons.  WHO guidance on masking still advises “governments should encourage the general public to wear masks in specific situations and settings as part of a comprehensive approach to suppress SAR-CoV-2 transmission” showing that in spite of their remarks, masking is still considered one of the tools to help reduce spread of COVID-19.

Because face masks such as surgical masks and N95 respirators continue to be reserved for health care workers and first responders, residents should use fabric face coverings such as cloth masks, scarves, or bandanas. Washington State Department of Labor and Industries has also produced a guide to face coverings that explains what type of face covering, mask, or respirator is appropriate for which job. 

Everyone in Benton and Franklin Counties has a role to play in stopping the spread of the virus and moving forward to economic recovery. By working together, we CAN reduce transmission of COVID-19.