Health Department urges state residents to stay close to home this summer

Photo courtesy State Department of Health

The Washington State Department of Health is encouraging people in our state to limit summer travel plans to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

First, be familiar with the Safe Start plan and how it applies to your county. Governor Jay Inslee’s initiative for a phased Safe Start plan details travel allowances for people who live in counties under different phases. Phases 2 and 3 allow more travel than Phase 1, but that’s not a green light for everyone to travel as much as they want.

“We still want people to limit their travel,” says State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy. “We have places in Washington with a lot of COVID-19 activity. If there’s a lot of cross-state travel this summer, that could spread disease around the state.” She says it’s understandable that people are ready to get out and enjoy the good weather, “But Public Health is requesting that if they do travel, that they stay closer to home. If people want to travel and it’s allowed based on their phase, we don’t want people traveling across the state. Stay local.”

Just because cross-state travel is strongly discouraged, outdoor activities are still OK when done with the proper precautions. DOH is sharing tips for enjoying the outdoors safely during a COVID-19 summer:

  • Stay 6 feet away from other people
  • Wear a mask when you’re around others
  • Keep your social circles small
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Avoid touching your face
  • If you’re around other people, being outdoors is better than indoors

Knowing what phase your county is in is important as many outdoor summer activities, such as pools and waterparks will not be opening before counties advance to phases 3 and 4. As for camping — it is allowed in some phases, but all camping is not equal. Camping with your immediate family is a much safer choice than camping with a large group of people.

Another concern is traveling to a state with several COVID-19 hotspots, contracting the virus, and then bringing it home. Says Lofy, “We are seeing a resurgence of COVID-19 activity in many states and increased cases here in Washington. It’s incredibly important that everyone does their part to slow down transmission by limiting or changing travel plans.”

“Travel that includes sightseeing and dining out can increase the spread of the disease. If everyone goes about their lives as normal this summer we will likely  see a resurgence of cases and may need to close down businesses again which we don’t want to do,” said Secretary of Health John Wiesman. “So we want to see people stay close to home.”

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