Downtown businesses: a guide to mask and vaccine requirements

As cases surge in the county, KPHD recommends wearing masks indoors

PORT ORCHARD — As is the case in many parts of the state, Kitsap County is experiencing a rapid increase of COVID-19 cases.

As of Aug. 5, 238 cases were reported in the county the week prior, up from 177 the week before, according to the Kitsap Public Health District’s COVID case dashboard. The case rate per 100,000 residents was 87.4 in the last week, up from about 20 per 100,000 at the beginning of July.

The majority of these cases — 85% — are from the Delta variant, said Dr. Gib Morrow, KPHD’s health officer.

With concerns over increased community transmission across the state, Gov. Jay Inslee is recommending that even fully vaccinated individuals wear masks indoors to prevent the more transmissible Delta variant from spreading.

With only a recommendation for masking, individuals are left to decide when to mask. Businesses have the authority to require masks be worn, as well as show proof of having gotten vaccinated, as conditions of employment and entry.

This map shows what some businesses in downtown Port Orchard are requiring — or not requiring — of customers and staff when it comes to masking and vaccinations.

Morrow said the county’s message is the same as is the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control in areas where there is high community COVID transmission: people need to wear masks indoors when their vaccination status is unknown.

“The best advice that we can give as public health professionals is just to have people mask up,” Morrow said.

Case numbers have only been higher in the county during the winter holiday surge and in early spring, according to Morrow, who also said the disease activity primarily involves unvaccinated individuals.

Currently, 61.4% of Kitsap County residents 12 and older are fully vaccinated, according to the KPHD dashboard. The daily dose rate of vaccines administered has dropped significantly from the peak in mid-April when the average daily dose rate was 2,944. The last daily dose average on July 31 was 279 for the seven days prior.

Morrow said the top priority of individuals is to get vaccinated, calling vaccines the most important protection method.

For those who are fully vaccinated but frustrated and confused over breakthrough cases and the need for more mask wearing, Morrow said he understands.

“I totally understand the frustration and the exhaustion and the pandemics fatigue that this generates,” Morrow said. “The way to get out of this is vaccinations.”