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

Covid-19 update

County case count now at 54; vaccine arrives in county, priority list announced


December 31, 2020

As of Tuesday, the total number of covid-19 cases had risen to 54 in Wahkiakum County. According to the Washington Department of Health, one person is hospitalized and 990 tests have been conducted so far.

Wahkiakum Health and Human Services is not reporting the number of active cases at this time.

Pacific County added nine cases on Monday, bringing their total case count to 569, with 28 considered active. Cowlitz County has had 2,497 cases with 966 considered active. They are reporting 23 deaths related to covid-19. Across the river in Columbia County, 734 residents have tested positive, with 48 currently considered infectious. They are reporting 12 deaths. In Clatsop County, they’ve had 567 total cases and three deaths.

“We are carrying a large number [of covid-19 cases] into New Years, which is the holiday that really scares me,” WHHS Director Chris Bischoff said Monday. “Christmas is more family centered, while New Year’s is 50 of my closest friends getting drunk for four hours, a great recipe for superspreading. This gives us a lot of opportunity to go the wrong direction.”

Vaccines have arrived

“We have the vaccine,” Bischoff said. “We got a number of doses into the county, way more than we need for the first round, as far as how it is prioritized by the Centers for Disease Control.”

He admitted to significant optimism but cautioned that we were still in a very dangerous place, and that people would still need to wear their masks, keep social distancing, and wash their hands.

“Were you to get your shot today, you would not necessarily be covered by that for 7-10 more days,” Bischoff said, “but on top of that this is a two dose series, and you need both of them for it to work.”

Following CDC guidelines, WHHS has prioritized the following as relevant to Wahkiakum County, and they will be first in line for vaccines: Emergency Medical Services, Home Health Care workers, Family Health Center staff, public health nurses and support, and the pharmacist, under the category 1a.

The second group, referred to as 1b, includes anyone who is 75 and older, police and jail staff, crisis responders, teachers/administrators/staff at schools, daycare/early start workers, pharmacy staff, transit drivers, firefighters, customer facing store and office workers, USPS delivery staff, agricultural workers, and mental health/substance use disorder providers and staff.

“We are solidly moving into 1b, with potential of reaching into 1c, but we want to do this in some order so that we don’t have the state tell us we aren’t getting any more,” Bischoff said.

Bischoff is asking residents who are 75 and over, and any home health care workers that work in Wahkiakum County to contact WHHS to get on the list for the vaccine, by contacting WHHS at 360-849-4041.

“We need to get a hold on this number of 75 year olds. We want to get them protected as quickly as possible,” Bischoff said.

If the home care workers can get the vaccine through their employer, that is preferable, he said, because of the limited number of vaccines.

Bischoff hopes that they will be able to move into the next category, 1c, which includes people who are 65 and older, people with underlying conditions, etc., by mid-January.

Public health nurses will be administering the vaccines.

The county has received the Moderna vaccine, which like the Pfizer vaccine, requires two doses, spaced 28 days apart.

“You have to have both doses,” Bischoff said. “One by itself may be somewhat protective, but it doesn’t reach the level of efficacy that we want it to.”

“As far as efficacy goes, which is how well it protects you personally,” he continued, “Moderna is slightly more efficacious than Pfizer. Not by a lot. I would be fine receiving either one.”

He noted that like the Pfizer vaccine, there have been allergic reactions to the Moderna vaccine. People will be monitored after they receive their shot.

There are some side effects as well.

“It’s not out of the norm for someone to feel tired, achy for a day or two after,” Bischoff said. “Headaches have been reported.”

“Keep in mind that even when you get the vaccine, you can still potentially spread the virus,” he said. “The light is at the end of the tunnel, but we are not there so we need everybody whether they’ve had the [vaccine] or not, to keep wearing their mask, keep separated, stay at home. At risk people especially, but really everybody.”

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