COVID-19: Please continue being vigilant

We have moved out of the most restrictive phase of the governor’s “Safe Start” plan, but we’ve also seen an uptick in confirmed COVID-19 cases in Okanogan County. Other states, such as Florida, are seeing a significant surge of cases after reopening their economies. Despite other important issues currently dominating the national news cycle, COVID-19 is still very much a concern.

How can we keep a similar surge from happening in North Central Washington?

1. Wear masks.There’s a lot of misinformation online and in the news about the effectiveness of any masks, but particularly cloth face coverings. The purpose of wearing a mask is to keep your germs from spreading as far into the air. Face coverings are more effective than only using your hand or elbow when coughing or sneezing. Masks provide you some protection against incoming bacteria, but their main purpose in this case is to protect others by containing your germs. This includes the most vulnerable members of our population, such as those living in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

There has been some debate about the risk from asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic carriers. The general scientific consensus at this time is that the virus is most contagious about two days before symptoms appear. If you are not aware of being infected with COVID-19 and venture out into public without a mask, the risk of spreading the virus to others increases significantly.

2. Continue social distancing.Much like wearing a mask, social distancing limits the number of people you’re exposed to and minimizes your risk of becoming infected or spreading the infection. This protects you, your families, and your community. Phase 2 of the governor’s order permits gatherings of fewer than five people. High-risk community members should continue to isolate at home rather than attend in-person gatherings.

3. Continue recommended hygiene.This includes washing your hands often with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds, using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, and routinely disinfecting surfaces in your homes, cars, and workplaces.

All these measures should be taken even if you don’t have symptoms. We are all anxious to resume our normal, everyday lives, and it can be difficult to know which information to believe. However, one thing is always true: It never hurts to take precautions to protect our families and communities.

The state Department of Health allowed Okanogan County to move into Phase 2 because our health officials made plans on how to keep safe social distancing, visitor restrictions and masking measures in place. To maintain this progress, it’s crucial that we all continue to observe these guidelines.

We, the undersigned healthcare organizations, appreciate the effort our community members have made to protect themselves and each other from a highly contagious and unpredictable virus. We’re in this together, and together we can maintain our community’s health while strengthening our economy.

Three Rivers Hospital

Mid-Valley Hospital

Family Health Centers

Okanogan County Public Health

North Valley Hospital

Confluence Health


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