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

Submitted by Thurston County

Letter to the Community: March 2, 2021

Hello Thurston County! It’s so nice to see sunshine and warmer temperatures this week. I have been receiving a lot of questions from the community lately and want to dedicate this letter to answering some of those questions. So, let’s dive right in!

I read your letter last week regarding double masking. Can I double up two cloth masks instead of using a cloth mask and a disposable mask?

Yes, doubling up two cloth masks is a great solution. Multiple layers of cloth are better than fewer layers, but you need to make sure you can still breathe easily.

For double masking, I have one mask with valves that has a carbon filter and I want to wear this under a regular cloth mask. Would this be a good solution to double masking?

Great question! The challenge of masks with a valve is they protect the wearer, but they don’t appropriately filter the droplets from the wearer when they exhale. While it is preferable to wear masks without valves for this reason, the CDC has stated that when those are the only masks available it is acceptable to cover them with a cloth or disposable mask. While some have used stickers or tape to seal off the valve, this is not recommended.

I can’t get an appointment for my second dose, what should I do?

Adverse weather postponed shipments of vaccine so clinics, including second dose clinics, had to reschedule many appointments. Each time a first dose clinic is planned the vaccine provider plans for second doses for all vaccinated. You should make every effort to get your second dose from the same provider you received your fist dose. Because every health care provider handles second dose appointments differently, please contact the facility where you received your first dose of the vaccine to schedule your second dose appointment.

If I can’t get my second dose shot at the interval recommended by the CDC, what should I do?

While facilities make every effort to administer the second dose as closely as possible to the recommended interval, when unavoidable situations arise like weather, the vaccine can be administered up to 42 days after the first dose. The data on vaccine efficacy beyond this window has not been well studied. Individuals who receive their second dose after this recommended time period, do not have to start the series over and should still get their second dose as soon as possible.

Are the new strains more contagious or more deadly? Is there any other guidance besides masking and distancing to help keep me safe?

There are several variants of the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) virus circulating around the globe. There is the B.1.1.7 variant also known as the United Kingdom (UK) variant which was found in the United States at the end of December and has been found in Washington State. This variant is more easily transmitted than previous strains. UK scientists reported there may be an increase in risk of death associated with this new variant, but this data has not yet been confirmed. Early data suggests there isn’t a significant change in disease severity with this variant.

The B.1.351 variant was first identified in South Africa as early as October and has also been found in the United States. This variant was recently identified in Washington State. Currently, there is no data to suggest it has impact on disease severity and more research is being done to determine the impact it has on the immune system’s ability to identify and neutralize the virus.

We also have the P.1 variant which was initially identified in Brazil and now identified in the United States. For this strain, more work is being done to understand its effect on transmission and interactions with the immune system.

As new strains are identified, public health officials are in close communication with the Department of Health and CDC to determine spread and if the strain identified behaves differently than prior strains.

You can find more information about each of these strains of the virus on the CDC website.

While these developments are concerning, it is important to remember preventing spread is the best way to keep yourself and the community safe and prevent variants. Variants occur when a random mutation causes a virus to be more successful at infection. There is an increased risk of this happening as more people are infected and the virus replicates. These strains are spread the same way the initial SARS-CoV-2 virus has been spread, through droplets and aerosols. So the best things to do are what we have been doing since the beginning – wear a mask, maintain a distance of 6ft or more with non- household members, avoid crowds, get tested and stay home when sick, quarantine when advised by public health, follow respiratory etiquette, and frequently wash your hands. Even though we have seen a decline in COVID-19 cases in Thurston County and the vaccine supply is slowing increasing, this still means we all need to continue to be vigilant in following preventative measures.

Thank you for the great questions this week. If you have additional questions for next week’s letter, please send them to tcphss.pio@co.thurston.wa.us.

Wishing you the best of health,

Dimyana Abdelmalek, MD, MPH Health Officer, Thurston County

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