Thurston County Health Officer’s COVID-19 Update: Letter to the Community

Submitted by Thurston County

Last Wednesday, Thurston County entered Phase 3 of the Governor’s Safe Start plan. The Governor and the State Secretary of Health issued a masking directive that took effect Friday 6/26. This replaces our local masking directive for residents and is in addition to the Governor’s issued mandate about masking in workplaces. Our long-term care outbreak is under control and we continue monitoring. Over the past few weeks, we have received 5-9 positive reports almost every day. Some recent cases are travel associated (to areas with a rapid rise in cases, like Arizona). There are some household contacts of confirmed cases, some exposed from meeting up with friends, some are work related (not in healthcare) and the rest have been exposed in the community. In general, cases are affecting younger folks. The danger is that the disease continues to spread in our community.

As restrictions ease up, we are going out more, doing more activities, visiting and gathering in larger groups. The risk of exposure increases with every action we take. If you are at high risk and vulnerable, limit outings, keep your distance, maintain your hand hygiene and wear your face covering. These are the best ways to keep you safe. For all others – PLEASE KEEP YOUR DISTANCE AND WEAR YOUR FACE COVER WHEN YOU ARE IN PUBLIC. For younger folks in the workforce and engaging in more social interactions – YOU can become infected and YOU can pass on COVID-19 two days before you even know you are sick. We need to all work together to keep the case numbers low and to protect our most vulnerable folks who are at risk of hospitalization and death.

Why should I worry? I am young and healthy, and I will get over it.

Anybody can get infected. When you become infected, it takes a few days for symptoms to show up. You are contagious for up to two days before you show any signs and for 7-10 days after. You can pass this on if you are not careful with handwashing, covering your nose and mouth, or keeping your distance from others. If you happen to be one of the unlucky younger folks that gets severely affected, you may end up with lung impairment, kidney failure as well as other organ damage. You could pass this on to some of your friends that might have asthma or diabetes.

I will be leaving this temporary position to resume my status as a retired public health professional. It has been a challenging and rewarding past 4 months. I hope I have been able to make a difference. As a member of the community, I will continue to listen to advice from our local public health professionals. Since I am in the vulnerable age group, I plan to continue to limit my outings and group gatherings to places where I can see physical distancing and face coverings encouraged. I need to protect myself too.

Your new Health Officer is Dr. Dimyana Abdelmalek. She holds a medical degree from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York. She completed an Emergency Medicine residency at Washington University in Saint Louis, Missouri and a Master in Public Health degree from Case Western University in Cleveland, Ohio. Over the years, she has been able to spend time doing international public health work in the Middle East. Her grandmother lives on Vashon Island, so she is excited to be closer to family.

For the past three years, she has worked as an Emergency Physician at Kaiser Permanente Redwood City Medical Center in California. For the past year and half, she led the HEDSUP group. The HEDSUP group uses a multidisciplinary approach to connect patients with complex medical and social needs with resources which include: primary care, psychiatry, patient care coordination, and intensive case management. She is excited to be joining the Thurston County Public Health and Social Services Department. She brings a well-rounded background, fresh ideas and a comprehensive approach to community health. I am looking forward to her advocating for the health of Thurston County residents. Welcome!!

Stay healthy everyone and protect yourself from COVID-19. Our future generations will be talking about this pandemic the way we talk about the 1918 Flu pandemic. Learn from the lessons of the past. We have had 100 years of improvement in disease control due to public health measures. We continue to learn more about COVID-19 and refine recommendations to better protect you and me. Bottom line, KEEP YOUR DISTANCE, WASH YOUR HANDS AND WEAR A FACE COVER WHEN OUT IN PUBLIC.

See you around town, from a distance. Take care. Thank you for caring about our community and each other.

Diana. T. Yu, MD, MSPH

Acting Health Officer, Thurston County (until 6/30/2020)

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