Wahkiakum case load steady; Holiday bump starts to show
June 11, 2020
By Diana Zimmerman
Covid-19 numbers are rising in neighboring counties, but Wahkiakum’s count remains at four for positive cases, with 154 tests conducted so far. Cowlitz County’s number jumped up to 89, and Pacific County now has 10 cases.
Across the river in Clatsop County, there are 45 cases, and 17 in Columbia County.
Wahkiakum Health and Human Services Director Chris Bischoff listed off a number of things that scientists are still learning about the novel coronavirus on Friday, including questions about its effects on the cardiovascular system, why it’s causing uncontrollable blood clotting resulting in organ failure, or turning into a dangerous disease for kids that is similar to Kawasaki Disease. There are questions about recovery and vaccination effectiveness, or why it’s being spread from humans to animals, especially household pets. And scientists are still compiling symptoms, like the loss of taste and/or smell, which was not reported out of China.
“What other things don’t we know we don’t know?” Bischoff asked. “It’s frustrating. It’s frustrating for our scientists, it’s frustrating for our medical providers, it’s frustrating for people locked in their houses, it’s frustrating up and down. But that is the nature of new. Change isn’t easy, and this is change that none of us anticipated or wanted.”
“Change management hasn’t been good for us,” he continued. “Essentially we’ve gone into lockdown across the planet. We’ve affected our economies. We’ve changed our daily way of life. This idea of wearing masks for us all? We’ve seen our doctors do that, and our dental hygienists, and our dentists do that, but we haven’t had to do that normally. That’s very new for us. That causes a lot of consternation, a lot of anger, resentment, frustration, anxiety, go down the list. I understand that. As a science person, and a communicator about public health, it is very frustrating for me that I have to change my message from time to time.”
“I know that many of you remember me talking about not wearing masks not being a big deal,” he said, “to where now my tune has significantly changed. That’s the nature of this thing. It’s not that anyone was intending to deceive. It was, and is still, that we are trying to put out the best information that we have, but it’s changing. We’re just learning more and more all the time.”
Memorial Day bump
On Monday, Bischoff reported that the Memorial Day bump was starting to show up in the state.
“On Friday, there were 440 new cases,” he said. “We haven’t had 400 cases since April 5. It’s the most since about March 28, in one day.”
“Luckily Wahkiakum County hasn’t seen any of that, so hopefully that continues,” he said. “That means people are taking precautions and helping us stay healthy as a community, which is awesome.”
In reality, masks have been mandatory for anybody who has been working for the past month and a half, Bischoff said. Employees must wear masks unless they are alone in an office, alone in a vehicle, or alone at a job site. Employers must provide masks, and customers should be encouraged to wear masks.
According to guidelines, businesses have to have signs posted that encourage the public to wear masks. Employers must provide education to employees. There should be a six foot separation between all employees and customers, and when that is not possible, there must be some kind of barrier. Employers must provide appropriate PPE to employees, according to risk.
Bischoff has frequently been asked what happens if people choose not to comply.
“That is something that town attorneys will have to answer as far as liability,” he said. “Any violation of the governor’s proclamation can be reported to the state and will be investigated as such. Labor and Industries has all of its enforcement abilities available to enforce the standards that are posted. That can include fines and more.”
Bischoff does not expect the mask wearing to go away, regardless of the phase.
“If we continue to have no cases, I would expect that within the next three weeks, we’ll hit Phase 4,” he said. “That is if everybody is helping, wearing their masks, washing their hands, social distancing, etc., and we can keep cases down in Wahkiakum, then we have the best chance possible to go to Phase 4.”
Fishing in Alaska?
Any fishermen and women heading to Alaska who still need to get screened are encouraged to call the health department for more information on how to get it done locally or at the Vancouver Clinic.