Submitted photo: King County District 4 Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles presents Mike Tulee, executive director of United Indians of All Tribes at Daybreak Star in Magnolia, with masks recently.
Submitted photo: King County District 4 Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles presents Mike Tulee, executive director of United Indians of All Tribes at Daybreak Star in Magnolia, with masks recently.
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When the virus first hit, everything was a mystery. All of us were scrambling to figure out why so many people were getting sick, how the virus was being spread, and what we could do to stay safe and healthy.

As the months have passed, medical experts and public health groups have provided guidance on what we can do to keep from getting sick from the virus.

Beyond staying at home and social distancing, wearing masks or other facial coverings have proven to be one of the most useful tools to stay healthy and protect people around you from getting the disease.

In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus could be under control nationwide in a matter of weeks if everyone wore a mask or face covering. And there is growing evidence that wearing a mask not only helps protect others, it protects the person wearing the mask, too.

My staff and I have been busy distributing basic cloth masks to a variety of senior centers, food banks and other non-profit organizations serving my district so they can be distributed to people in need, especially those from vulnerable populations. In total, we are distributing nearly 25,000 masks throughout District 4.

Among the places we’ve distributed masks have been the Pike Place Market Food Bank, Ballard Food Bank, Greenwood Senior Center, Queen Anne Food Bank, YouthCare, Familyworks — Wallingford and Greenwood, Bitter Lake Food Bank, United Indians of All Tribes at Daybreak Star, Puget Sound Labor Agency Food Bank and the Seattle Human Services Coalition, which is redistributing masks to a multitude of organizations. If your non-profit could use masks to give out, let us know. And if any reader needs a mask personally and is unable to get one, please let my office know, and we’ll get you a couple as long as our supply lasts.

More broadly, King County has purchased 25 million cloth and disposable masks and is working with chambers of commerce, King County cities, County Councilmembers, community organizations, churches and faith-based organizations, transit agencies, food banks, senior centers and other key stakeholders to get supplies out to King County residents.

King County Metro has also distributed hundreds of thousands of masks to service providers and community-based organizations serving people who are transit-dependent and from low-income populations.

And as the Council’s Budget Committee chair, I, along with the vice chairperson, Councilmember Rod Dembowski, included a proviso in one of the three COVID-19 emergency spending packages already passed by the Council to provide funding for mask dispensers and masks on Metro buses so masks can be distributed to riders who need them. This should help protect both transit users and our bus operators, who have been working tirelessly and heroically to provide essential travel during the pandemic.

The good news is several neighborhoods in District Four are near the top of the list in complying with the mask order, with Ballard and Magnolia leading the list. The bad news is that enough people still aren’t wearing masks.

We as a local government are doing what we can to make masks available to as many people as possible — especially our most vulnerable community members.

Now it is up to all of us to wear a mask when we go out in public and do our best to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

When we don’t, we put people at risk, we delay the reopening of small businesses and restaurants, and we prevent schools from reopening — preventing students across the county from being able to achieve their fullest potential.

So do the right thing.

Wear a mask and help us defeat this vicious virus once and for all.

And you might consider subscribing to my e-newsletter, which is sent out Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays with COVID-19 updates, what’s going on at the County Council and loads of other information.

— Jeanne Kohl-Welles represents District 4 on the Metropolitan King County Council. Contact her office by email at Jeanne.kohl-welles@kingcounty.gov or by phone, 206-477-1004. Subscribe to her e-newsletter by going to public.govdelivery.com/accounts/WAKING/subscriber/new?topic_id=WAKING_593.