Wahkiakum case load is steady; disease thrives south of equator
August 20, 2020
The number of confirmed covid-19 cases in Wahkiakum County was holding steady at five as of Tuesday. The total number of cases has grown to 512 in Cowlitz County with 154 considered active. Pacific County is reporting 59 cases, three of which are active. Across the river in Columbia County they have reached 117 total positive cases with 15 currently considered infectious. In Clatsop there have been 91 cases, and seven are active.
“South of the equator they are starting to see outbreaks right in the heart of their winter,” Director of Wahkiakum Health and Human Services (H&HS) Chris Bischoff said. “We certainly did not have a die off in the summer but our concern is that we could have an amplification in the winter.”
“There have been a couple studies now about how long you keep antibodies in your system after you’ve been positive for covid-19. It’s not super consistent,” Bischoff said. “The CDC has looked at that data, and has now said if you were confirmed positive for covid-19 and recovered, they consider you extremely covid-19 resistant for 90 days after that. Only 90 days.”
“That’s not the best possible news, immunization-wise,” he continued. “When we talk about if you get a shot, is that for life? Is that for a year, or 90 days? The immune system is very complicated. This does not mean that we cannot have something that will protect you from covid-19 for the rest of your life. That is still certainly a possibility.”
In the meantime, even if you’ve had covid-19 and recovered, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to walk around without a mask on.
“There is still a possibility you could catch it again during that 90 day window and pass it on,” Bischoff said. “So they still ask folks in the 90 day window to use all possible, all appropriate cautions.”
School hand washing stations
Bischoff said that Wahkiakum School District Superintendent Brent Freeman and his staff had been getting ready for the school year.
“We’re going to try to keep that open,” Bischoff said, “it requires community buy-in, and keeping the disease out of our county as much as possible.”
H&HS staff have been helping the school district all along the way, and, according to Bischoff, one of the things they’ve been focusing on, as the school gets ready for the academic year, is hand washing.
“We want to make sure that’s adequate and freely available for kids and now we’re pushing that on them, to hand wash more often,” he said.
He praised Emergency Manager Beau Renfro who has been working to make sure the school had more hand washing stations set up before school starts in September.
With students returning to the classroom, and to child care at St. James Family Center, WHHS has been lining up volunteers for contact tracing, just in case there is an outbreak of covid-19 and they need to contact a bunch of people, quickly.
“They’ll be trained and ready to respond,” Bischoff said.
He and his team will meet internally, and then again with Freeman and Beth Hansen, the director at St. James to talk about how the contact investigation was going to look in the schools and in the child care setting.
New tests on the horizon?
According to Bischoff, Yale worked with the National Basketball Association to come up with a faster, easier test for covid-19, using saliva.
“They swab your cheek instead of shoving it up your nose,” he said. “In a non peer reviewed study, it was found to be as accurate as the full on nasal swab. Hopefully that continues to move forward.”
“Yale is doing something I consider to be exemplary,” Bischoff added. “They are not trying to monetize it. The NBA paid them to develop it, Yale is releasing protocols free of charge to anyone who wants to use them. They estimate the test should cost no more than $10 per person, which would be marvelous, and hopefully get us to the point where we have true widespread, easily available testing to help us keep this under control.”
Testing doesn’t end the crisis, Bischff said, but the quicker cases can be followed up on and people are isolated, the better job they are able to do to keep the disease under control.
“Having widespread adequate testing is just one of those cornerstones that has eluded us so far,” he said.
Bischoff encourages everyone to spread some kindness.
“Things are pretty dour as they are,” he said. “Help someone else out. Do it with a good heart. Remember those folks that are standing at the cash register wearing a mask behind plexiglas probably aren’t enjoying being there, so giving them a little kindness there can go a long way.”
Finally, if a provider wants to put off testing, Bischoff said his office would like to know.
“Those folks need to have a one on one conversation with our health officer who is also a medical doctor, to be encouraged to do things appropriately, which is to get you tested within a day or two,” he said.
“The Family Health Center has been phenomenal,” Bischoff added. “They have been helpful to no end to us.”