The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Covid-19 update: Wahkiakum case load steady; Phase 4 opportunity grounded


The number of confirmed cases of covid-19 remains at five in Wahkiakum County as of Tuesday, with only one case considered active. So far, the county has conducted 202 tests. Nearby in Cowlitz County, the number of positive cases continues to climb. They have 188 confirmed cases, with 114 of them considered active. There are 17 positive cases in Pacific County. Across the river in Clatsop County, they are reporting 49 cases, and in Columbia County they are up to 30.

The average for new cases per day in Washington was 193 in March. In April, it rose to 288 and in May, the average decreased to 237. However, the numbers began to trend upward again in June, with the average of new cases per day reaching 362. The state’s average for the last 14 days is even higher at 423.

Because of the increasing number of covid-19 cases throughout the state, Washington Governor Jay Inslee and the Washington Secretary of Health John Wiesman announced that counties will not be progressing into Phase 4 at this time, Wahkiakum Health and Human Department (WHHD) Director Chris Bischoff reported on Monday.

“They didn’t say when,” Bischoff said, “just not now.”

Washington state hospitals outside of Yakima, Benton, and Franklin counties are in decent shape, according to Bischoff, but Wiesman has been monitoring the situation closely. If admissions surge in other counties, Bischoff said, the governor will probably take additional actions. Meanwhile, the increase in covid-19 patients needing critical care is beginning to overwhelm hospitals in several other states like Texas, Arizona, California and Florida.

New symptoms

The Centers for Disease Control has added some new symptoms to their list for covid-19, including congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea.

The purpose of contact tracing

After WHHS learns of a positive result, the public health nurse, Danelle Barlow, will contact the individual to find out if they have been notified and to begin an investigation. She, like any contact tracer, will ask a standard set of questions, considered best practice across the state.

The contact tracer wants to learn when the test was conducted, why the individual got tested, and where they had been when they were most likely exposed to determine when they became able to spread the virus.

“Generally, you are not shedding the virus the day you contract it,” Bischoff said last week. “It Is usually within two to three days. Symptom onset is right around that seven to nine day period, so if the person started having symptoms, we can dial that back to when we think they contracted covid-19 and then look at those contacts in there.”

Armed with that information, the contact tracer begins asking about anyone the person may have been in contact with during that time frame.

Unfortunately, contact tracers are running into resistance. Their reason for conducting investigations is to reduce the spread of the virus, not to get people in trouble.

“We are not trying to find anyone to blame when we are doing the contact investigation,” Bischoff said, “we are just trying to get a handle on the spread. If you contacted covid-19 at a party where no one was wearing masks in a Phase 1 county, we are not going to bust you or your friends or your friend’s friends. When they are contacted, we do not even tell them who the confirmed case is, just that they were exposed.”

Fourth of July

“Be safe,” Bischoff said, “keep your distance, wear a mask. I understand that this is a very important American holiday, and that culturally there is a lot invested in this. Small gatherings are better than large ones. If someone who is a higher risk invites you over, maybe a polite thanks, but no thanks would be a good idea.”

“We know that air moves more freely outside, so small outside gatherings are better,” he added. “Not great, just better.”

He also pointed out that there is no known current risk of contracting covid-19 from food, but asked people to remember general food rules: keep cold foods cold, and hot foods hot.

And wash your hands.

Top Ten Reasons to Wear a Mask

10) So the kids can go back to school. The best way to keep the kids safe at school is to make sure the level of covid-19 in your community is very low. Wear a mask to make sure your community can keep your kids healthy at school.

9) So small businesses can open and stay open. The quickest way to open our economy is to control the virus. As more of our counties move to Phase 2 and 3, and the more people are out and about, we need to make sure we keep the virus from spreading. Wear a cloth face covering to protect our businesses.

8) To be a leader in a community. Set a great example for others in your community. Take care of others and show them how it’s done.

7) Because it’s rude to make others sick. You wouldn’t cough on someone or sneeze in their face. Now we have a new germ that can be spread to others when we talk or sing or breathe. Cover your face to keep your germs to yourself.

6) To show essential workers how much we care for them. Our essential workers have taken the risk to continue to go to work to keep us fed and to keep the services we all rely on running. Thank them by protecting their health by covering your face.

5) To express yourself. Make other people smile behind their masks. Some masks have slogans and other messages printed on them. Use your masks to express your freedom of speech and promote what you care about. Or, write your name on it, keep people from wondering who you are.

4) To leave the house. You know, at all. To go get your hair cut. To see your friends and family.

3) To support your cause. Many non-profits are selling masks to raise money for a charity, and some will even match your mask purchase by donating masks to people who need them. Support your local school, human rights, environmental protection, access to health care, or any number of causes you support on your mask.

2) To save money on lipstick. Or cover a pimple. Or maybe because I haven’t had my upper lip waxed in months. Whatever. I have my reasons.

1) It literally saves lives. Fewer people will die if we all wear our masks. Who doesn’t want to be a part of that?

“Please don’t participate in mask shaming,” Bischoff said. “Don’t shame people who don’t wear them, don’t shame people who do wear them. Some people have medical reasons, some choose not to. Someone might have forgotten to bring their mask, some might not have masks, some might not be able to afford them.”

“Everyone is tense about this issue, so regardless of individual feelings, let’s practice some kindness and compassion,” he said.

The county has received a significant number of fabric masks, and anyone who needs one can contact Beau Renfro at Emergency Management or the health department.

If you have any symptoms, contact the health department.


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