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Although Kittitas County has fared relatively well with keeping actives cases low during the COVID-19 pandemic, the numbers are beginning to increase at rates that are concerning to local public health officials.

The Kittitas County Public Health Department issued a press release Wednesday that said they are seeing significant increases in active COVID-19 cases within the county, although the release said the increase is not related to a specific outbreak at this time. As of midday on July 1, the county had 39 active cases and one hospitalization due to the virus.

The release said the Incident Management Team feels strongly that for activities allowed under Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan to be enjoyed safely, there must be prevention efforts in place for any time people gather in groups.

“We have enough information at this point about COVID-19 to know what works,” the release stated.

The release placed emphasis on wearing masks in public places, saying that locations that have required the use of masks such as churches have had no cases associated with them. Although the release said some cases have been attached to businesses that have been required to implement measures such as masking, the department has seen very low numbers of cases related to those locations.

“In Phase 3, we can and will continue to see people getting together with other people,” the release stated. “We are not surprised by COVID-19 activity increasing. This is not a scare tactic, only public notification of increased COVID-19 activity. However, the issue is protecting the population. This is a time to look at risk versus benefit. This is a time to reduce the harm of COVID-19 while also trying to safely get back to a more normal way of life.”

With recreational activities beginning to spike over Fourth of July weekend, the release said that taking precautions such as viewing fireworks displays from vehicles and social distancing to reasonable extents while camping and gathering with friends will help stem the spread of the virus within the community.

“What we’re really seeing is environments where there is no mitigation,” Kittitas County Public Health Department Public Information Officer Kasey Knutson said in an interview. “There’s no effort to prevent the spread, whether that’s any kind of social gather, casual or not. When people are gathering, we still want them to do things to stop the spread of COVID-19 which includes masking and social distancing.”

Knutson reiterated that it is not a surprise that case numbers are increasing as people become more active in the community, but with states across the country having to roll back reopening plans due to spikes, she said the county must work hard to keep on its current path.

“It’s logical to stop the spread by using what we know works, which is social distancing and masking,” she said. “We want you to enjoy phase three activities, it’s what we’ve been working so hard to get it. But if you’re going to work that hard to get there, let’s keep it.”

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