NCW — Wenatchee Valley residents appear to be responding to a state mandate requiring people to wear masks.

Gov. Jay Inslee on June 23 announced a statewide mandate for people to wear masks to stem a spike in COVID-19 cases.

The Wenatchee World conducted an informal survey of local grocery stores and markets. Reporters counted the number of people wearing masks within a one hour time span mid-day Tuesday. An average of about 75% of people in six locations were wearing masks.

In addition, the Chelan-Douglas Health District did spot checks of several retail outlets and found 76% of employees and 64% of customers wearing masks, according to the health district. The data was collected from nine retail stores in Wenatchee and six in East Wenatchee.

It was a one-time study and will not be how they are done in the future, Health Officer Malcolm Butler said.

The goal for the Chelan-Douglas Health District is 80% compliance with the mandate, he said. The hope is that all the employees at businesses will wear masks and about 80% of customers.

“We have to set the target higher than necessary in order to hit the target we’re hoping for,” Butler said. “We aim for the stars so that we hit the moon.”

In order for masking to be effective, at least 50% to 60% of the population needs to be wearing masks, he said. But whenever agencies do health initiatives they always aim high in order to get sufficient compliance.

And researchers do believe that masks are effective against preventing the spread of respiratory illnesses, according to ‘Face Masks Against COVID-19: An Evidence Review.’

Sixty seven studies on the spread of respiratory viruses found that overall masks were the best performing intervention across populations, settings and threats.

Health district staff have not figured out how the counties will measure face mask compliance going forward, Butler said. The health district does not have enough staff to conduct the surveys themselves.

“We have to put together a more valid type of survey that everyone can get behind,” he said. “We’ve got to figure out how we can find boots on the ground to do that kind of work.”

Members of a task force putting together an application to move to the next phase are also looking at this, Butler said. Task force members are considering creating a campaign with maybe a thermometer that shows each week what percentage of people are wearing face masks.

“It is almost like a war bond effort,” he said. “Everyone contributes and we all have an oar in the water and we’re all pulling in the same direction.”