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Health Officials Urge Mask Wearing, As More Infectious Variants Spread

Rebecca White/SPR

The Center for Disease Control is now recommending everyone, vaccinated or not, wear masks while indoors due to an increase in infections driven by the Delta variant of the coronavirus.

Dr. Francisco Velazquez, the Spokane Regional Health District’s interim health officer, said the Delta, as well as other variants, have been detected in Spokane County.

“This variant is being characterized as a variant that generates a very high concentration of virus inside a person. It has been calculated by a variety of studies that it could be up to 1,000 times higher than the original strain of the virus.”

Washington state health officials say their modeling shows the Delta variant may represent as much as 96-percent of the state's current Covid cases.

Velazquez said when people who have that variant are around other people without a mask, they are much more likely to become infected.

“If you remember, the transmission, whether the variant or the original virus, is person to person through the upper respiratory tract. If you think about it, the concentration of the virus that is coming out every time you speak, every time you cough, or every time you sneeze, is 1,000 times greater. Thus, the probability of infection for those who are close to you who are susceptible is a lot higher.”

In Washington only a small percentage of Covid cases are sequenced to determine if they are the original virus or a variant. In Spokane County, that figure is around 17%.

Spokane County has seen its case counts, and variants go up. Last week 12 Delta variant cases were found in the small segment that were sequenced. This week, 28 Delta cases were found.

Velazquez urged everyone to wear a mask, noting that vaccinated people can still spread the variants, even if they have a very mild case of COVID-19 or no symptoms.

Velazquez said he is not currently considering a mask mandate, saying the community can relieve the pressure on the healthcare system by wearing masks, social distancing and getting vaccinated.

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