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Decreased use of masks a concern as Washington state reopens counties

'I do hope we do not go backward,' a state official says. A recent uptick in coronavirus cases is attributed to infections around Memorial Day weekend.

As counties push to keep moving up to more and more phases of reopening, mask use in public places is considered key, health officials say.

The King County Board of Health on Monday approved a motion to send the application for Phase 2 of reopening to Washington state health officials.

The county has been in a modified Phase 1 of reopening. If approved, it would join its neighboring counties, including Pierce and Snohomish, in Phase 2 of the "Safe Start Washington" plan.

Ten counties are already in Phase 3, out of four phases.

But Dr. Scott Lindquist, the state epidemiologist for communicable diseases, said people who continue to go out in public without masks risks the progress that the state has made in reopening the counties. 

“We got to where we are controlling this disease with close attention to social distancing, this stay at home order, handwashing, face coverings, and I think a lot of communities that are adhering closely to these community norms, are seeing a benefit," Lindquist said. "You are not going to enjoy these freedoms in our phases, until we can demonstrate we can control this. And I hope we do not go backward.”

The Washington Department of Health says coronavirus infections are on the increase on both sides of the Cascades.

The situation report says state epidemiologists have seen a particularly large increases in Benton, Yakima, Spokane and Franklin counties, but said the latest data through the end of May indicates likely increases in infections across the state.

The results, the report says, includes increases in coronavirus transmission over Memorial Day weekend, but not infections that may have occurred during recent protests that have drawn tens of thousands of people together in cities and towns across the state.

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