With COVID cases on rise again, did WA lift mask mandate too soon?

It’s been nearly two months since Washington state lifted its indoor mask mandate, and cases are creeping back up again.

According to a report this week by KIRO 7’s Graham Johnson, the State Department of Health website shows numbers are increasing, though not as high as they were in January. Cases in Seattle Public Schools are approaching numbers not seen since January as well. And while 200 people in Washington were in hospitals a month ago, it was up to 450 last weekend.

“This is still well below some of the peaks where we’ve been before,” Pavitra Roychoudhury, an acting instructor for University of Washington virology, said in the KIRO 7 report, “but what we don’t know is, are we at the beginning of a trend? Are we at the crest of a wave? We’re definitely concerned.”

On a recent edition of KIRO Newsradio’s Gee and Ursula Show, hosts Gee Scott and Ursula Reutin reacted to the latest news.

“The question I have is, did we lift the mask mandate too early?” asked Reutin. “When you when you hear that cases are going up, does it make you feel any kind of way other than ‘let’s just keep going?’”

Gee and Ursula are on the same page regarding their answer.

“No, and the reason why I don’t feel any particular type of way is everything that is happening right now, I don’t think any of us were shocked about it,” Scott said. “We weren’t shocked that once you take (away) the mask mandate and people are in school and people are in planes and all those things, there’s a good possibility that cases can go up. The unfortunate part is that there were 200 people (hospitalized a month ago), the Washington State Hospital Association said, and today that number is 450. You don’t like hearing that.”

The critical thing to Scott is this current variant of COVID that’s most prevalent is proving to be less dangerous for those who contract it.

“The good news is that there’s a lot of people that have been vaccinated, and this variant right now isn’t as strong so people aren’t dying as much,” he said. “The bad news is that we’re still going through it, it’s still around, and we did lose 313 people to COVID around the country (Tuesday). So if you were to ask me should they bring the mask mandate back, my answer is no. It’s going to be the same. Now, if you want to wear a mask, then I think you should wear a mask. If you don’t want to wear a mask, then do your thing. I don’t think that we’re at the level that there needs to be panic and we need to bring back the mask mandate.”

Reutin said it’s tough to go backward with a mandate now.

“Well, the genie’s out of the bottle – it’s hard to get people to willingly return to masking,” she said. “And I did notice when I was traveling, I was one of the few (that was still wearing a mask), and it wasn’t for a statement … When I am in really close quarters, I’ll put one on.

“I think you said it exactly, and I hate any day that we have to bring up COVID because we had to bring it up so much for the past two years, but I think it’s important for people to know, yes, cases are going up. Yes, more people are being hospitalized. I mean, I’m hearing from more people who are still dealing with long COVID, and that is a bit of a concern when I hear people talk about that because it’s not something that’s talked about enough. But that all said, we all know what it is and what it takes to reduce our chances.”

You can listen to the whole discussion in the podcast at this link or in the player below.

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