Mason County begins 'normal' life with COVID
March 31, 2022
References to “normal” times before the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 are common these days, but with restrictions easing, Mason County begins “normal” life with the coronavirus.
Mason County Director of Community Services Dave Windom said he thinks the county handled COVID-19 “really well.”
“One of the things we did different is we set up area command right off the bat and got that integration, we realized this is bigger than public health,” Windom told the Journal. “We set up area command, we brought in the Sheriff’s Office and fire, regular EMS, just a whole group of folks. Hospitals and doctors, all the stuff, all put together and we were all working together for two years so in a lot of ways, we built those relationships and made a real solid team out of people we’ve never met before.”
Cases plummeted in March, with the last update Monday confirming five new cases, a seven-day case rate of 41 per 100,000 people and a 14-day case rate of 96. The county has recorded 11,297 cases since the beginning of the pandemic.
The county has recorded 137 deaths, 62 of which were among people 60 to 79 years old. One person 20 to 39 years old died, 27 people were 40 to 59 years old and 47 people were 80 or older.
Mason County is 58.3% fully vaccinated. The county still has four people on its COVID team and they’re monitoring COVID within the county, including the BA.2 subvariant that is pushing out omicron.
County staff on the COVID team are starting to move into foundational public health services, but will still monitor COVID.
Windom said he does not see a situation where the county would institute its own mask mandate.
“We’ve tried all through the pandemic to follow the governor’s guidance, let the governor step out and do those things,” Windom said. “Our health officers are looking at that all the time so there’s a group of health officers … looks at the metrics and they discuss this every week and kind of debate the science of things and they can make the decisions for their own jurisdictions.”
Masks are still required on public transit and private businesses that still want to require masks, but Windom said masks in Mason County are mostly gone.
“Those people that are still uncomfortable taking their masks off, we support that,” Windom said. “We’ve got masks here for free, we’ve got testing kits for free, so we’re going to continue to support those folks who are uncomfortable with that.”
The county plans on distributing masks and test kits until it runs out or demand slows down.
Area command will be kept intact for the future, as it’s used to fight fires and it keeps all the agencies in communication with what is going on in Mason County.
One of the matters Windom said the team will focus on is public messaging, including redoing the website and adding social media posting to keep the county informed. The county will also be bringing back its community health forum to work on chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity. They will also focus on behavioral health and housing programs.
“That’s really where I see public health going in the future is really going toward the prevention side of things rather than a reaction sort of thing,” Windom said.
Windom said he’s looking forward to getting back to a sense of normalcy in his job.
“A lot of that time burden is gone,” Windom said. “We keep an eye on it. Every day, I pull up the latest statistics and see what’s happening out there in the world. … But now I’m starting to look at long-range planning. Where are we going to be? Where do I want us to be in five years? If I want us to be in a certain place, what are the steps to get there and how do I find it?”
To follow the COVID numbers, like the Mason County All Hazard page on Facebook or go to the COVID data dashboard at masoncountywa.gov/COVID-19/index.