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Health Officials In Washington Issue "Urgent" Message About Covid And The Holidays

Screenshot from WA Department of Health briefing

Washington state and local health district officials today [Tuesday] urged people to scale back their holiday plans in an attempt to stop the current surge of Covid in many parts of the state.

State Health Department Secretary John Wiesman says that surge has accelerated over the last month.

“The slope is increasing right now to a point where we are very concerned, if not alarmed,” Wiesman said.

“The recent spike in cases indicates we are in the beginning of a surge in demand for hospital care, that may become overwhelming and I submit, will become overwhelming if we don’t change our course immediately, not after holidays, not next week, now," said Chris Spitters, the health officer in Snohomish County.

But state officials aren’t yet ready to impose new or previously lifted limitations imposed early in the pandemic.

“It doesn’t mean we won’t come to some sort of restriction as we saw in the case,” said David Postman, Governor Inslee’s chief of staff. “When we institute those sorts of things, the questions we get then are, ‘Why are you doing these things?’ People don’t like it and there’s a Covid fatigue that sets in. People told us that from the very beginning.”

Tuesday’s warning, he says, is a reminder to people that if they want to avoid onerous restrictions, the power is in their hands. The way to avoid them is to continue doing the masking and distancing people have been practicing since March, he says.

As part of that, health officials are warning people that they may have to make alternate plans for Thanksgiving, Christmas and the other November and December holidays.

Lacy Fehrenbach, the Department of Health’s deputy secretary for Covid-19 response, says Washingtonians can learn from others’ experiences about how to – or not to – celebrate Thanksgiving.

“Our neighbors in Canada celebrated their Thanksgiving about a month ago and saw large increases in cases following that. We cannot afford those in Washington state,” she said. “Any in-person gathering is risky right now, both for those that attend that gathering and because it can further accelerate the spread of the pandemic.”

She and others suggested celebrations that involve virtual meetings or small, brief gatherings outside.

“You can certainly link in your immediate family by web, if you want that togetherness," she said. "For those that want to have an immediate Thanksgiving please make it outdoors. Please limit to no more than five people outside your household. And you should consider a full quarantine for the two weeks prior which starts very soon."