Pandemic Pivot: How Washington’s Response Needs to Evolve

Sarah Schacht
4 min readNov 19, 2020
A graphic of aerosol spread shared by El PaÍs, Spain’s English-language newspaper. Their article on how COVID-19 spreads, airborne, has more and better “explainers” than Washington State Public Health’s own website.

Washington State deems all indoor spaces as equally unsafe in the pandemic and unequally essential. We’re 10 months into COVID-19 and the science has evolved. It’s time Washington changed its approach.

As a small town commercial building owner, I spent most of the summer preparing for this moment. Fall would see a third wave and it would be worse than the others. With small businesses and nonprofits as tenants, I saw it as my job to increase building safety. I turned to Washington State Public Health guidance but found it lacking. Everything boiled down to masking, distancing, and social isolating.

Washington State doesn’t have any guidance on reducing COVID-19 aerosols indoors*. Employees think they could take off masks when six feet apart indoors. An asymptomatic, distanced, maskless staffer could fill their indoor space with the COVID-19 virus. — And still be in compliance with Washington’s recommendations.

Washington’s advice didn’t reflect the recommendations for risk-reduction of airborne, indoors COVID-19. Respected virologists, ventilation experts, and public health experts recommended a more comprehensive pandemic defense. Yes, mask, distance, and limit social contact — these are foundational, but not enough. Experts around the world say we can reduce risk via ventilation and air filtration. Instead of Washington Public Health, I turned to Harvard’s Chan School of Public Health for guidance on how to reduce COVID-19 risk in my buildings.

Here’s what I learned from experts like Harvard’s Chan School of Public Health:

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Sarah Schacht

Decade+ in #opengov, civic tech, & open data innovation. Surfer. Accidental #FoodSafety advocate/data standard expert. Author. #MeToo