Health officials continue to research BA.2 variant as CDC extends travel mask mandate

SPOKANE, Wash — Coronavirus cases of the BA.2 variant are surging across the country. It’s the reason the CDC announced they’re extending the travel mask mandate until May 3.

“You know, I haven’t been wearing a mask for the last couple weeks, or maybe even the last month so it’s kind of a bummer but I understand, we have to do what we have to do. I hope it’s over soon,” said Michael Fenno, flying out from the Spokane International Airport.

For Dr. Frank Velazquez, health officer for Spokane Regional Health District, the announcement comes as no surprise.

“You do go through airports and many other places where there tends to be a little more proximity,” he said. “There’s a lot of other people, and you’re interacting with dozens of people that are not in your household, so it’s a reasonable precaution at this point in time.”

The Spokane Regional Health District is monitoring the BA.2 variant across the country and the region. They can reinstate the mask mandate if it comes to that point. Determining the risk now in the pandemic, Dr. Velazquez explained isn’t simple.

“Talking about a number is complicated because it’s more what is the impact to the community, and what is the impact to healthcare capacity in terms of severity of disease,” he said.

Spokane’s case counts are currently trending downwards. Dr. Velazquez is cautiously optimistic.

“I don’t want us to be alarmed but I always want us to be aware of the fact that the virus is still around and is still potentially a risk for many,” he said.

Eastern Washington lags 10 to 14 days for coronavirus trends behind the western part of the state. Dr. Velazquez explained it has remained as a consistent early warning sign throughout the pandemic.

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