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

Covid update:

County's cases remain at six; more diligence

 

September 24, 2020



As of Tuesday, the number of confirmed cases of covid-19 remains at six in Wahkiakum County, with 537 tests having been conducted. There are 80 cases in Pacific County and 648 in Cowlitz County, with 130 considered active. Across the river in Columbia County, there are 153 total cases with seven currently considered infectious and in Clatsop County, they are reporting 127 positive cases, with 97 recovered.

“Time for us to get more diligent about this,” Wahkiakum Health and Human Services Director Chris Bischoff said Monday. “Generally when you head into the fall, people start to head back indoors, and with covid-19 being very airborne, this increases the likelihood of it being able to pass. We are going to have to pick things up if we want to keep schools in session and keep moving forward.”

Bischoff said he met with parents who were sending their children to St. James Family Center for early education on Thursday to discuss what the center is doing to keep everybody safe. He has also been talking regularly with Brent Freeman, superintendent of Wahkiakum School District, to talk about testing options that might keep the district ahead of any outbreak that could occur.

Lessons from South Korea

When South Korea had an outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which had a very high fatality rate and a very low reproductive number, Bischoff said, they did two things that worked in their favor--masks and tracking. The same system is working for them again as they contend with covid-19.

“They have been able to keep case loads low,” Bischoff said, “though they are experiencing a surge right now. But they are one of the countries that is most back to normal for a host of reasons.”

One, they have a widespread acceptance of masking.

“They’ve been doing it a bit longer than in the states, so it’s a little bit more accepted in their culture than it would have been the first time,” Bischoff said.

Secondly, they developed a system with cell phone operators in their country that allows them to quickly track anyone who has come in contact with a person who has tested positive.

Bischoff commented that a similar system is being developed in the United States, but users would have to agree to turn on the feature on the phone.

“You have to opt into it; it’s not automatic,” Bischoff said. “Assuming people opt in, when you go about your normal business and when you come within six to 10 feet of someone for about 15 minutes your phones would exchange bluetooth information.”

If you later tested positive for covid-19, Bischoff said, you would be given a personal identification number (PIN), which you would enter into the system. Everyone your phone exchanged bluetooth information with would get a notification that they had been in contact with someone who had tested positive and they would be given instructions on what to do.

“It still protects everybody’s privacy,” Bischoff said. “I think the way it is described, it would protect data very well, protect people from being tracked and invaded in their personal lives. We’ll wait and see.”

The health department wouldn’t have the information, and the app would keep everyone involved anonymous.

“It’s an interesting system,” Bischoff said. “Considering the political climate, I don’t know how widespread it would be adopted, but the thought is, if we could get up to 60 percent adoption, we would have a pretty significant decrease of the spread because we could catch people much quicker, before they started spreading.”

To read more about the system, go to https://www.google.com/covid19/exposurenotifications/

Get your flu shot

“There are studies that have shown that the flu and covid-19 can co-occur, and when they do, it’s worse,” Bischoff said. “Please, please go get your flu shot this year. We really don’t want to have that overlapping.”

 

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