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Remember where you put your mask? People around the county and state may be asking themselves that question this week, as the recommendation (but not a requirement) to wear a mask at indoor public spaces is reinstated — particularly in areas with low vaccination rates.

Also, on Wednesday Gov. Jay Inslee announced that K-12 students and staff will be required to wear masks this fall.

The reason for this is a surge of cases of a COVID variant. The variant would be less of an issue if we had reached a vaccination level to provide herd immunity. We have not.

The variant is spreading among the unvaccinated and potentially is even being spread by those who are vaccinated. There still is a significant advantage to begin vaccinated, in that almost all the people who are dying from COVID now are unvaccinated.

The mask question is particularly relevant in Kittitas County because of our low vaccination rate. According the state statistics, the county is at about 42% vaccinated.

This summer, the recommendation has been that people who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear a mask in public spaces, but those who are not vaccinated should continue to wear a mask.

Very few people in Kittitas County wear masks. Given our vaccination rates, that means a sizable percentage of the people you see without a mask are not vaccinated. The county is considered a high-risk transmission area, which means the recommendation is for everyone to wear a mask in public spaces regardless of vaccination status.

The population of those who were most opposed to wearing masks and social distancing during the height of the COVID outbreak correlates with the population most opposed to getting vaccinated. That would imply that someone who refused to wear a mask during the original COVID outbreak, then refused to get a vaccine when one became available, seems unlikely to wear a mask now that they are “recommended” again for indoor public spaces. Those who behave responsibly will, once again, be providing some degree of benefit for those who don’t.

The vaccinations are proven to work. Among the states, Vermont has the highest vaccination rate in the nation and the lowest COVID infection rate. If people had decided to get vaccinated at a higher rate, COVID would be far less of a concern.

But that has not been the case. An Associated Press article last week cited a poll that indicates most of the people who have not gotten vaccinated at this point have no intention of getting vaccinated.

While there are people who say they cannot be convinced to get a COVID vaccination, they may get motivated.

The motivation will come from the private, not the public sector. As this plays out, employers will see a competitive advantage to having a vaccinated work force. If two people apply for a job and one has proof of vaccination and one does not, the edge could go to the vaccinated.

Scientific data, physicians, politicians and assorted public campaigns have failed to move the needle, so to speak, perhaps the private sector will have more influence.

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