With surge in respiratory viruses, health care leaders recommend wearing masks indoors

Dr. James Lewis

Snohomish Health District Health Officer Dr. James Lewis joined more than 30 other local health officers and health care leaders to recommend masking and other illness prevention measures this winter.

Here’s the full statement:

“Communities across our state and around the U.S. are experiencing an unprecedented surge in viral respiratory illnesses, including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza and COVID-19. As health officers and health care leaders working to improve the health of Washington residents, we recommend that everyone wear a high-quality, well-fitting mask when around others in indoor spaces to protect against both acquiring and spreading these infections to others.

We also urge everyone who is eligible to stay up to date on your vaccinations. Vaccinations are the most important way to protect against severe influenza and COVID-19 infections, including hospitalization and death. Everyone 6 months and older should be vaccinated against these diseases and those who are eligible for an updated COVID-19 booster should get it now.

Other necessary strategies include:

  • Staying home from work and school and testing for COVID-19 if you develop symptoms.
  • Having a plan for rapid treatment for COVID-19 and influenza for people who are at increased risk for severe infections.
  • Improving indoor air quality through ventilation, filtration, and UV technology where appropriate.

We expect the flu to circulate for months, so now is the time to get your flu shot!

The flu is most dangerous for:

  • Children under 5 years (especially under 2).
  • Adults 65 years or older.
  • Those who are pregnant.
  • Anyone living with a health condition like asthma, diabetes or heart disease.

Consult with your physician or health care provider about the need for testing or treatment if you are at increased risk for severe influenza or are unsure.

In addition to RSV and influenza, new COVID-19 variants are taking hold and immunity from past vaccination is waning for many people who have not yet received an updated booster shot. The surge in these viruses is resulting in many illnesses, contributing to rising absenteeism in schools this fall. This impact extends to businesses, workers and families.

For people who develop symptoms, and for parents of young children, it’s important to know when to contact your physician or health care provider for advice or an evaluation.

Working together and using multiple, layered strategies to limit the spread and impact of these viruses will provide benefits to all of us during this fall and winter respiratory virus season and help relieve serious stress on our healthcare system.

Thank you to everyone for doing what you can to help.”

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