Covid-19 update:

Wahkiakum case load steady; opening up depends on citizens


As of Tuesday night the number of people to test positive for covid-19 in Wahkiakum remained at four, with 101 tested. Cowlitz County had 73 positive cases, Pacific County had nine. Across the river, Columbia County had 16 cases, and the number of positive cases in Clatsop County had risen to 45.

“It started really with the fish packing plant, but they are having more cases that are unrelated,” Director of Health and Human Services Chris Bischoff said of Clatsop County on Friday. “So they are having community spread. If you head over there, be aware that it is active in that community. Protect yourself.”

Meanwhile, the number of positive cases in the state of Washington were going down when Bischoff spoke on Friday, but so was the number of tests being performed.

“We were promised just under 600,000 test kits from the federal government this month. Those have not come through, largely. We’ve gotten some shipments, I believe less than 100,000 at this point, so test kits still remain to be a problem for most of the state,” Bischoff said.

However, there are enough test kits in Wahkiakum, and Bischoff encourages people to get tested.

Anyone experiencing a cough or shortness of breath or two of the following: fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell should contact their provider. If the provider will not provide a test for covid-19, Wahkiakum Health and Human Services will. Their hours are Monday thru Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and their contact number is 360-849-4041.

Behavioral health experts have created models to describe how people respond to catastrophes, which Bischoff described as usually happening at a point in time, like 9/11.

Unlike 9/11, covid-19 has gone on for more than two months and could last another nine months or even longer.

Currently, people are experiencing anxiety and panic. Some are dismissing it. The next phase involves acting out, and Bischoff acknowledges that some of that is already happening.

They expect it and that is why decisions are already being made to open things up a bit this summer, in order to make room for it.

The next stage is depression and grief. People are not only grieving the people they’ve lost but the loss of normal experiences, like graduation, or their family reunion over Memorial Day weekend.

Suicide rates and domestic violence rates increase, according to the model, and the holidays, which tend to be difficult anyway, will be exacerbated by the pandemic, Bischoff said.

At some point, there will be a return to a baseline level.

How does Wahkiakum get to Phase 3?

“I talked with our health officers last night and the other directors in our region,” Bischoff said. “I indicated to them that not next week, but the week after, I’m probably going to apply for Phase 3. The state has not released any indication that we can do that or that they will honor it. I don’t care. We’re going to do it anyway.”

However, the outcome will largely depend on the citizens of Wahkiakum County. Because it was the Friday before a three day weekend, Bischoff had the holiday on his mind.

“Culturally as a group, we tend to congregate on this weekend in our traditions,” he said. “We have individually two choices that we can make. We can not do that, or we can do that very safely, or as safely as we can.”

“Or,” he said, “we can just pretend that this isn’t a problem, and not move into Phase 3.”

“Whether you individually think this is a big deal or not isn’t important in this situation,” Bischoff said, “because the people making the decisions up at the higher end do think this is very important. If we come out of this weekend and we suddenly develop in Wahkiakum County two, three, four, five cases of community spread covid-19, we will not be moving to Phase 3 any time soon.”

“If you normally have 15 different families, friends, whatever, over to your house on Memorial Day weekend, and you intend to go ahead and do that, you become part of that problem,” Bischoff added. “You are really rolling the dice for all the citizens of Wahkiakum County.”

Bischoff suggested that to keep the number of cases down and have a shot at going to Phase 3 sooner than the rest of the state, that it was on all of us as individuals to do as much as we can to prevent the spread.

“I get that some people don’t feel that this is important. I’m not going to argue with you,” he said. “Whether you disagree or not doesn’t matter to the governor’s decision making. If they see us having an outbreak they are not going to let us move forward. In fact they may move us backwards.”

As for people coming from out of town?

“Stay away from them as much as you can,” Bischoff said. “If you know that people are going to be coming from out of the county, which I’m sure they are, to our local Vista Park or the marina park, stay away from it. Find somewhere else to go.”


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