County case count hits 50; virus makes a 'variant'
December 24, 2020
As of Tuesday, the total number of positive covid-19 cases in Wahkiakum County had risen to 50.
The number of active cases is not being reported by Wahkiakum Health and Human Services at this time.
According to the Washington Department of Health, one person is hospitalized and 925 tests have been conducted so far.
Cowlitz County is reporting a total of 2,317 cases, with 1,037 considered active, and 22 deaths. There have been 545 cases reported in Pacific County, with 56 considered active, and four deaths attributed to covid-19.
Across the river in Columbia County, they’ve had a total of 686 cases, with 74 considered infectious, and eight deaths. Clatsop County has had 507 cases and two deaths. Their health department is not reporting the number of recovered cases, citing an increased work load.
“We had four more cases over the weekend, WHHS Director Chris Bischoff said Monday, adding that the new cases are related to Wahkiakum School District.
“We have a cluster that is still evolving,” he said. “Obviously, we wouldn’t want anyone at the school to get sick, but if we were going to do it, this is the best way. We have two weeks to clear that out so that when we go back [to school] in the beginning of January, everything is reset for the school.”
Everyone has been contacted and while WHHS is currently caught up, they are waiting to hear the results of a “bunch of outstanding tests,” and Bischoff warns there may be more to come.
“The thing to remember is that the virus is here in Wahkiakum; it’s everywhere,” he said. “So whatever your gatherings or plans are, do them as safely as you can, for all of our sakes.”
The Moderna vaccine was officially approved late on Friday, Bischoff said, and Washington State is expecting to get doses this week. In what Bischoff is calling an accounting error, there was a reduction in the number of doses of the Pfizer vaccine expected to be delivered to the state last week.
“If you’d like to get further into it, there’s more to it than that,” Bischoff noted. “It does not seem to be intentional.”
With the two vaccines, the state is expecting to receive about 177,000 doses this week, adding to the 62,000 doses from Pfizer last week.
A new variant, politics, and the media
“Boris Johnson of the UK announced that there is a new variant of the covid-19 virus,” Bischoff said. “He used the number 70 percent more likely to be spread.
“It’s an interesting thing. He’s a politician, and he did a politician thing. They announced it amid a real spike in cases in the United Kingdom with some pretty heavy restrictions for the holidays. I think, to some extent, that 70 percent number had some political weight to it, to help people see that this is serious.”
“The variant was actually identified back in September. It’s not a new strain, and I’ve used this [word] incorrectly too. At this point I should correct myself. There is only one strain of the SARS-COV2 virus, but there are numerous variants at this point.
“So this is a new variant. It does appear to be more passable. There are stories that it has a higher fatality rate. The truth is nobody knows at this point. There is not a ton of data on it, which is where I’m getting up and saying that doing X, Y, and Z was not entirely appropriate because most of that was based on models that had a lot of gaps in them.”
Because it has become international news, more people are looking at the new variant, but Bischoff reminded listeners that “we still need time for the data to come out to really see what is happening.”
“Not only do you have to have data, but you have to be able to attribute that to a thing,” Bischoff said. “You have to make some connections between this particular variant and the data.”
“There are a lot of rumors floating around. I’ve seen some fairly major news outlets make some fairly stupid claims already at this point about it. Please don’t panic about that variant.”
“Is it troublesome? Yes. Is it something I and a billion other people have been warning about? Yes. The longer we have this high level of the virus available unchecked, the more likely we will have additional variants. Those can become more easily spread, more deadly, more other things. That is certainly a possibility. At this point, I don’t think there is enough information to really panic about it.”
Bischoff believes that despite the changes to the virus with the new variant, there is still hope that the vaccines will remain effective.
“I’ll be watching that as we get more data come out,” he said.
The next wave of vaccine distribution
“The panel that recommends to the Centers for Disease Control the order of vaccinations has sent to the CDC their next suggested wave of how the vaccines will come out,” Bischoff said. “The panel approved it almost unanimously. The CDC generally takes these recommendations and uses them, so with all that being said, it could change.”
The priority for the next wave, after all the hospital staff and long term care facilities receive their vaccinations, are:
Anyone 75 years and older,
Firefighters and police, which may include EMS,
Teachers and school staff,
People working in food, agriculture, and manufacturing sectors,
US Postal Service,
Public transit workers, and
Grocery store workers.
“We’ve been calling all these folks essential workers this whole time and making them stay at work and now we are going to treat them a little bit like that and give them a higher availability for the vaccination,” Bischoff said.
After that, doses may go to people between the ages of 65-74, and anyone with underlying conditions.
“As for how it will be distributed, the state is still working on its plans,” Bischoff said. “We will have received about 250,000 doses by the end of the year and we think that this is somewhere between 500,000-600,000 folks in the first wave, so that puts us in mid-January before we start worrying about this next wave. They are still crunching that.”