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Cascade School District promotes masking amidst flu outbreaks

The Wenatchee World - 11/23/2022

Nov. 24—LEAVENWORTH — The Cascade School District has encouraged students and staff to mask up while indoors at school at least through Dec. 7 as it experiences an outbreak of influenza.

In some school buildings about 25% of students are absent due to flu-like symptoms, according to a Cascade School District social media post.

The Chelan-Douglas Health District is strongly recommending that people mask up in crowded public places, which the school district is taking to heart to keep its schools open, according to the post.

"I've spoken with several superintendents and school nurses over the past week," said Dr. James Wallace, health officer for the health district, at Monday's monthly board of health meeting. "Some difficult decisions to make out there, but it's always better if we can do that in a collaborative way."

The Wenatchee School District is also reporting "increased absence rates due to illness," said Diana Haglund, WSD spokesperson.

"Masking is a personal choice and at this time we are not advising parents, students or staff to mask up," she said in the email.

The North Central Washington area, as well as the state, is experiencing a significant spike in influenza-like illnesses, which include the common cold, influenza, and Respiratory Syncytial Virus.

Confluence Health — the region's largest health care provider — has reported seeing a "sharp increase" in the number of patients being seen in emergency rooms and walk-in clinics with some kind of respiratory illness and flu-like symptoms, said Dr. Jason Lake, Confluence Health's chief medical officer, in an email.

On an average day, Confluence Health typically sees a total of 240 patients at their walk-in clinics and the emergency departments at Central Washington Hospital and the Wenatchee Valley Hospital, said Adam MacDonald, Confluence Health spokesperson, in an email.

The patient count in its ERs and walk-in clinics has been higher than normal this week and one day saw a 90% increase from the daily average with approximately 457 patients, MacDonald said.

"This level of need is not sustainable and the high number of patients coming in ... decrease access for those with critical conditions," he said in the email. "While no patient is ever denied care, we encourage those with more mild illness to treat at home to help keep these treatment facilities more readily available to those with more severe treatment needs."


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