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

Covid upate:

County's case load holds at six; Wahkiakum SD schools faring well


October 1, 2020

The number of confirmed covid cases held steady at six in Wahkiakum as of Tuesday, with 554 tests conducted so far. There have been 82 positive cases in Pacific County, including two new cases confirmed in children under the age of 10 from the same household. In Cowlitz County, they are reporting 690 cases of covid-19, with 156 considered active.

Across the river in Columbia County, there have been 184 cases, 29 currently infectious. In Clatsop County, there was a huge jump over the last week as they went from 127 to 230 positive cases, including an outbreak of 77 cases at a Pacific Seafood facility in Warrenton.

Fatality rates

“Fatality rates overall have come down per case as we’ve learned how to treat,” Wahkiakum Health and Human Services Director Chris Bischoff said on Monday. “Before, many things caught us off guard, including the blood clotting issues, the attack on the central nervous system, and the attack on some of the visceral organs. We’ve headed a lot of those off. We’re fighting it faster, and treating it better.”

Local schools

A few people have been tested since Wahkiakum School District started classes four weeks ago, Bischoff said, and they had not found any covid-19.

Meanwhile, early education has started up again at St. James Family Center, which already had protocols in place for their ongoing child care program. They finished their first week without any major issues.

“Big kudos to Brent [Freeman] and his staff, and to Beth [Hansen] and her staff,” Bischoff said of the superintendent of WSD and the director of SJFC, respectively. “They’ve done remarkable work getting their staff prepared, and getting them to buy in. Once the staff buy in, the kids generally follow pretty well. Beth has led by example from the beginning, asking kids to wear masks. The kids don’t bug them, it’s the parents who bug them about the masks.”

Testing sewage for covid-19

The Town of Cathlamet and the health department has been considering testing sewage for covid-19, Bischoff said.

“Obviously if you test the sewage, it won’t tell you that Chris Bischoff has covid-19,” he added, “but it will tell you that you have covid-19 in your sewer system. We had talked about looking at that as a monitoring tool for the school. But there are some issues with the plumbing of the school that would make that pretty tough. I think the town is going to move forward with that and it will be interesting information.”

They’ve done it in a larger municipality, he said, and one of the studies that came out showed that where they had implemented sewage testing twice weekly, they were able to be eight to 10 days ahead of the regular testing regimen in figuring out when they were going to have surges.


A couple more potential vaccines have entered Phase 3 where testing is more widespread, Bischoff said. Johnson & Johnson is working on one in the United States, but it is still early and is unlikely to be ready before mid-March. The potential vaccines from AstraZeneca in the United Kingdom and Pfizer in the US are still moving forward and would probably be available at the end of November, December time range, he added.

“There have never been this many attempts to crack a vaccine ever,” Bischoff said. “Normally a vaccine might take a decade or more to crack. There are things we may still not have vaccines for. We have never in the history of humanity seen this. Is it realistic? Yes, because of the amount of attention and money that has gone into developing this vaccine.”

Recent studies

Bischoff cited a recent study of people needing dialysis in Lancet, a medical journal, and what they learned about covid-19.

“People who are on dialysis are getting tested regularly for covid-19, because it could have significant ramifications for them,” he said. “It gave them a population of folks they could monitor on a large scale. There are some limitations on that, but it does give interesting information. It basically backs up what Dr. Redfield, who is the politically appointed director of the Centers for Disease Control, has been saying, that he feels about 10 percent of the population or less have been exposed to covid-19. That’s largely what the study said. Again you are looking at a subset of the population, but it does give credence to what he’s been saying.”


Scientists are learning that people are becoming reinfected, and are finding people who have been infected by more than one strain of covid-19.

“One of the things we’re seeing is that the mutations are moving forward still,” Bischoff said. “So when you talk about natural selection, things that are more built to survive tend to move to the front of the mutation train. One of the trends they are seeing is that covid-19 is becoming more communicable than in the past.”

In general, they’re also finding that there are slightly less serious ramifications.

“That’s great,” Bischoff said. “If it could just become a cold at some point, that would be awesome.”

Air quality issues may be returning

“We are getting that warm weather again,” Bischoff said, “and it’s starting to pull some air back from the east side. There are still some fires going on. There are certainly fires going on in California, so there is a possibility we could see air quality issues again.”

Screening and flu vaccinations

“We still need to screen, we need to test, we need to keep our kids in school,” Bischoff said. “Wahkiakum has been doing well to this point, we need to keep that up.”

To get screened for covid-19, call 360-849-4041.

The health department and the Family Health Center have flu vaccinations available for kids and hope to have them available for adults soon. The Cathlamet Pharmacy and Costco have flu vaccinations available for adults now.

“Please, please get your flu vaccination this year,” Bischoff said.


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