Kitsap renewed mask directive follows ‘explosion’ in cases

Kitsap renewed mask directive follows ‘explosion’ in cases

(MyNorthwest photo)

A renewed directive to wear masks indoors in Kitsap County is getting mixed reviews.

This, after a resident at the Washington Veterans Home died from COVID-19; 32 other residents and staff are also sick with the virus.

This mask requirement comes from the Kitsap County public health officer.

On late Saturday, he told KIRO 7 the mask mandate was necessary because the coronavirus was spreading rapidly here once again. He said they have seen more than 100 cases some days, recently.

But the divide over the requirement is apparent in the parking lot of a small shopping center.

Bi-Mart is requiring masks. “That One Place” diner is not.

And a lot more people here agree with that decision.

In this county where a little more than half of the eligible residents are vaccinated against the coronavirus, there appears to be near unanimity on one issue: that no one should be forced to be vaccinated or wear a mask.

“The fact that you’re requiring a mask for people that supposedly the vaccine is supposed to help, is supposed to prevent it,” said Drake Stensland of Ollala. “Then why are we getting vaccinated in the first place?”

And it does appear a bit of COVID fatigue has set in.

“I don’t think it’s right,” said a lifelong Port Orchard resident who declined to give her name. “I think we’ve had our shots. And we’ve done everything. And I don’t think we need to be doing this anymore.”

But just a three-minute drive away, a security guard ordered us off the Washington Veterans Home property, telling us the home is in lockdown. At least one resident has died and some 32 others, including workers, have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

State data reportedly shows 97 percent of residents here are vaccinated. A little more than half the staff have gotten a shot.

“Right now, we’ve got an explosion of cases going on in Kitsap,” said Dr. Gib Morrow, Kitsap County Public Health Officer. “We’ve had about a seven to eightfold rise in disease activity in new cases that started at the beginning of July.”

Dr. Morrow said he understood that residents were getting tired of wearing masks. But he said the virus was taking hold in this county and filling up local hospitals with very sick people.

“To keep our community, keep people out of the hospital, we need to do what we can,” said Dr. Morrow. “This is just one simple, additional layer of protection that needs to happen right now.”

In fact, he said the best way to avoid having to wear masks is for more people to get vaccinated. So far just 52% of Kitsap County’s eligible residents are vaccinated.

Dr. Morrow said there would be no penalty for refusing to mask up. But he said he hopes residents will comply.

By doing so, they make the community safer and will help ease the burden on health care providers.

Written by KIRO 7 TV reporter Deborah Horne