Friday afternoon, August 13, 2021, Dr. Gib Morrow, Kitsap County Health Officer, issued a mask-wearing directive that goes into effect tomorrow, August 14, at 6 a.m. Per this directive, everyone five years of age or older must wear a face mask when in public indoor spaces in Kitsap County.
The directive does not apply to indoor private spaces. However, it does apply to retail businesses, grocery stores, government buildings, and “places where members of the public can enter freely,” as well as correctional facilities, homeless shelters, schools, childcare facilities, public transportation, and health care settings.
Children ages 2 to 4 are encouraged to wear face masks under the supervision of an adult.
Dr. Morrow explained the reason for the new mandate: The fifth wave of the COVID virus transmission, which started around July 10, has led to a 591 percent increase in the seven-day case rate. This new rate is above what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have identified as the threshold for “high transmission.” In addition, Dr. Morrow cited the 52 percent COVID-19 vaccination rate of the Kitsap County population, which means that about 100,000 people 12 and older and 38,000 children under 12 remain unvaccinated in the county despite the availability of the vaccine.
Almost all current COVID virus transmission in the county, said Dr. Morrow, is caused by what is known as the Delta Variant. Dr. Morrow also explained that although most incidences of infection in July were among unvaccinated people, vaccinated people can also be infected by the Delta Variant.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington has projected that rapid adoption of universal mask wearing could prevent 1,500 COVID deaths between now and December 1 in the state.
Dr. Morrow also cited as reason for his directive the fact that the CHI Franciscan intensive care unit is operating at above 90 percent maximum capacity.
Although there is no current enforcement of the mandate or penalty for failure to comply, Dr. Morrow stresses that mask wearing “is reasonable and necessary in Kitsap County to reduce the risk for COVID-19 transmission.”