Thurston County COVID-19 Update: Letter from Health Officer Dr. Yu

Submitted by Thurston County

May 20, 2020

Letter to the Community

The Governor indicated yesterday that Thurston County may be eligible to move into phase 2. The Thurston County Public Health Director and I will be looking over the requirements for applying for the waiver and will then make a recommendation to our Board of Health. Moving into phase 2 requires that we meet multiple requirements, and that all of us continue to prevent transmission of COVID in our community.

Our community is entering our third full week of Phase 1 of our road to recovery. I see a lot more cars on the road. I have also noted more lines outside some stores and grocery stores, and that they are a bit more crowded.  Some folks are wearing face coverings. Some are not. Many people are trying to maintain the 6 feet distance from others. It’s important to realize that in some settings, like grocery aisles, it just is not possible. I have heard people being gracious and understanding. I have heard people get into arguments. I have heard some folks trying to tell others why it is so important to social distance and wear face coverings.

Let’s face it. People are tired of staying at home and have tentatively ventured out. They may be lulled by the fact that we have so few cases of COVID reported in the last few days. The reality is that the risk is still out there today. I have no idea who the next case will be, or whether they will choose to stay home when they are sick. The best thing each of us can do to protect ourselves and our community is to maintain 6 feet of space from non-household members, wash our hands, and wear a face covering when we are out in public. I know this advice feels small—and like old news, but the truth is that these are the actions that will protect you, now and into the future.

How are you feeling? This is a scary and uncertain time. None of us really know what’s going to happen next, but based on the data, and experience of the health care community, we know this is not over yet. We still have a long road ahead. This is a time to be compassionate to ourselves and to others. We are all struggling, but we will get through this time. Find your trusted source of information. Our County could be one of them. Try to find small ways to support yourself and others, whether it’s taking a walk or calling a friend. And if you or your family members need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it. There are resources to help.

How can I protect myself and others? This is what I am continuing to do to keep myself healthy and safe. I will wash my hands before touching my face. I will wash my hands or use hand sanitizer whenever I have touched things that others have touched. I will try hard to maintain at least 6 feet from others. If others are not wearing face coverings, I will avoid them. I will still limit my outings and try to grocery shop only once a week. I will continue to connect with my friends virtually and get daily exercise. I will try not to worry about things I cannot control.

To protect others, and as a courtesy, I will wear a face covering when I enter a business or when I am in public. I will stay home if I do not feel well. These are the things I can control.

When should you get tested?  If you have a new cough or shortness of breath and some other symptoms – fever, fatigue, new loss of sense of taste or smell, shaking chills, sore throat, headache, body ache, call your health care provider and try to get in to be tested as soon as possible. As soon as you start having symptoms, stay away from others. The sooner you get in to be tested, the less likely you are to expose others. Testing information is available on our resources page.

How do I know if I have been exposed? Thurston County Public Health and Social Services does (and has always done) contact tracing. If you have been identified by public health as someone with a close exposure to someone with confirmed COVID-19, you will receive notification and be given guidance. If you are exposed to someone and they tell you they have been diagnosed with COVID, watch for signs and symptoms that may start showing up from 2 – 14 days after exposure. Close exposure means that a person has been closer than six feet (for more than 10 minutes), to a person with confirmed COVID-19 when that person was not wearing a face cover. Alternately, if someone spends a lot of time together with a sick person in the same setting, perhaps touching things they may have touched and accidentally rubbing their eyes or nose. Most folks generally stay home once they feel sick but can be infectious 2 days before they have symptoms.

It won’t be long now before we can enter Phase 2. Please continue to be careful and protect yourselves and our community. We can do it. Thank you for continuing to support the work that your health care providers and public health workers are doing for you.

Diana T. Yu, MD, MSPH

Acting Health Officer, Thurston County

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