Thurston County Health Officer: Letter to the Community

Submitted by Thurston County

Letter to the Community

May 12, 2020

As of yesterday, it’s been two months since I returned to work to help handle the COVID-19 response in Thurston County. My first day on the job was an urgent call to discuss our first reported case of COVID-19 in a Thurston County resident. We have had 123 such discussions since then. Sadly, we have had one death. The majority have been released from isolation and the hospital and are at home recovering or recovered. Some will continue to have health impacts as a result of this disease. There is still so much to learn about COVID-19. Our number of cases are not huge, compared to other communities around the state, the country, and the world. However, the impact of this pandemic is felt in most of our lives, whether at home, at work, or in our ability to recreate and enjoy our community. Many community events have been cancelled, some that were scheduled as far out as September.

Who should be tested? Anyone who is experiencing symptoms suspicious of COVID-19, cough or shortness of breath, plus any two of the other symptoms (fever, headache, chills, sore throat, loss of sense of taste or smell, muscle ache) should get a viral test. We have enough testing supplies now to do so, and we want people who are sick to get tested. Contact your health care provider to see if you can get tested in their office. Persons without a regular health care provider can contact SEAMAR Clinic or Valley View Clinic. Both clinics are federally qualified health centers and see new patients in various locations. Providence Community testing site at Hawks Prairie is open during limited hours. Call ahead at 855-776-4362. Within our community we are testing a total of about 900 symptomatic people a week, with a positive rate of 2%. Remember to stay isolated at home until you get your results back.

How was your weekend? Many families took the opportunity to enjoy the warm, sunny weather for Mother’s Day to celebrate with loved ones, to be out and about and enjoy the sunshine. Last week, Governor Inslee began Phase 1 of our “Safe Start” to recovery plan. A few outdoor businesses as well as some recreation and parks were opened back up. I noticed the heavy traffic and the long lines everywhere I wanted to go this weekend. Some people were keeping their distance. Some people were wearing face coverings. Some folks were not. I worry that people are not distancing and wearing face coverings. They should. To stop the spread of this disease, we need to protect others from getting exposed.

Why do I wear a face covering? I think I am suffering from allergies. I have never had allergies to pollen before, but my eyes were watery, my nose was stuffy, and I was sneezing. The headache was bothersome. Do I have allergies? Or did I somehow get exposed to COVID-19? Regardless, when I had to go to the grocery store, I put on my mask because I did not want anyone to get sick if I was coming down with COVID. When I continued to have symptoms, I stayed at home most of the weekend. When my kids came to wish me Happy Mother’s Day, they all sat 8-10 feet away from me and each other. This is our new reality. I do not think I will be out in a public setting without a face covering any time soon, unless I know I will be more than 6 feet away from people.

Speaking of protecting people…

It’s really important that everyone continue to stay up to date on their normal vaccinations. You may not have realized that health care providers are still offering this service. They are. Vaccinations are there to help prevent disease outbreaks, and there are many vaccine-preventable diseases that we do not want to break out, especially right now. If you or your loved ones need to get up-to-date, call your health care provider.

We all want things to be back to normal. We are tired of staying home and having our activities limited. I hear you. I feel the same way. The more I keep my social distance and wear my face covering, the more I help the effort to not spread the disease and smooth the road to recovery. Hang in there. Thank you for your everything you do to help protect yourselves and those around you!

Diana T. Yu, MD, MSPH

Acting Health Officer, Thurston County

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