H&HS director discusses masks, summer break, testing issues
May 7, 2020
As of Tuesday night, the total number of confirmed cases of covid-19 in Wahkiakum County remained at two. On Wednesday morning, the number changed to three. As of this time, the first two are considered to be recovered. According to the Washington State Department of Health website, 59 people in the county have been tested.
There are now 60 positive cases in Cowlitz County, according to DOH, which also reported four positive cases in Pacifiic County on Tuesday.
Chris Bischoff, Director for Wahkiakum Health and Human Services, continues to provide updates about covid-19 twice a week.
Will we get a break this summer?
According to Bischoff, it’s really too early too tell. Some viruses show a seasonality and numbers seem to be lower in the summer, but there are others that do not take the summer off. There are even some that take a break during the winter because they don’t deal well with the colder temperatures, he said.
“This is a novel virus. It is new,” Bischoff said “South of the equator, they have been having summer since this outbreak started. And we are seeing outbreaks south of the equator where the temperature is fairly warm.”
There may be another reason to believe there might be a break. Bischoff referenced the Spanish flu, a pandemic that lasted two years and came in waves.
“If we are close to peaking or may be on the downhill trend, generally there is a few months between that first wave and second wave,” he said.
But again, it’s too early to tell.
“The state is really going to keep pushing face masks,” Bischoff said. “I’m not a big fan of them, but at this point I think there is merit in us getting on board on that. If people are wearing a mask there is a significant reduction in transmission. Again, my concern is that people think they can do all kinds of other risky behaviors because they are wearing a mask, but that is just not true. What we know from these studies is these fabric masks, because they vary in construction, have different levels of being able to slow down the virus out of your facial orifices.
“The other thing they’ve found is that when they take the masks off people who they knew were positive, the virus is very prevalent on the outside surface of the mask. So the virus is still moving through, it’s just not moving as fast or as far. That means there needs to be a lot of precautions taken. If you are wearing a mask and you touch your mask and then touch other things and you have the virus, you are moving the virus still. We need to go to wearing masks, but we need to remember their limitations and what our protocols are around that. Tons of hand washing, face masks need to be washed at minimum every day. There are two ways we would pass this on orally, sneeze or cough, but even just talking, we tend to propel smaller droplets of fluid and virus out of our mouths. So just normal breathing or talking is moving virus out of your system. If both parties are wearing a mask it helps slow the spread down. It’s not 100 percent but it is reduction and reduction is what we are waiting for.”
“It’s not a fight that is going to be over in two or three months. There are no medications currently under development that will protect you from this. Dr. Fauci came out and said that he thought there was a chance that by January we might have a widely available vaccine. Many other folks that develop vaccine are still talking about that 12-18 month window.”
Bischoff said that the federal government had committed to 580,000 test kits to Washington State for the next two months and they are starting to loosen up testing requirements.
Before, if you were notified that you had come into close contact with someone who had tested positive, you were told to stay home. Now they will test you.
“It’s closer to the correct thing to do to keep this under control,” Bischoff said
Issues with Phase 2
Bischoff supports a move to Phase 2 for Wahkiakum County in Washington’s phased reopening, which allows for outdoor recreation involving five or fewer people outside your household, gatherings of no more than five people, retail with restrictions, pet grooming, hair and nail salons/barbers, restaurants and taverns at 50 percent capacity, and more.
But he’s quick to point out that even if the county does a good job with infection control locally, there is still much they can’t control.
“We have people in our county going to other places to work and then coming back,” Bischoff said. “If Wauna Mill suddenly has a covid-19 outbreak, then our county is going to be pretty heavily affected by that. There are some other spots like that, where we know we have groups of folks that go to work. But even a single person going and then inappropriately socializing when they get back can spread covid-19 around pretty quick.
“That’s something that we need to consider. It’s everywhere in our state. So any travel, anyone who needs to leave the county is at risk and is putting the rest of the county, essentially, at risk.
"Folks that don’t need to be out need to stay in their houses. People when they go out in public need to take the mask wearing seriously. So we as a community, churches, need to follow the guidelines please. It’s not an attempt to rip away somebody’s civil liberties, it is an attempt to keep us from getting sicker.”