County case count hits 60; local vaccinations underway
January 7, 2021
As of Wednesday morning, the number of Wahkiakum County residents to test positive since March for the covid-19 virus had grown to 60. Wahkiakum Health and Human Services considers 14 of those cases to be active.
“Recovered is more of a math issue,” WHHS Director Chris Bischoff said on Monday. “We are not doing tests for people that recover, so if you haven’t had any symptoms for 10 days, you’re recovered. That’s CDC guidance.”
Because of privacy issues that arise in small populations, Bischoff has been reluctant to provide any data on local covid-19 cases, but with 54 of them to work with on Monday, he was willing to share a little more information.
Of those confirmed cases, 42 were in the 98612 zip code area, which includes Cathlamet, Puget Island, the Elochoman Valley, Rosedale, and all points east. There were three cases in the 98638 area, defined as Naselle, but reaching into Deep River on the Wahkiakum County side. Rosburg and Skamokawa had four cases apiece, and one case was defined as unknown.
Eight people between the ages of 0-19 were diagnosed with covid-19. There were 13 cases between the ages of 20-39. Between the ages of 40-59, 23 have had covid-19, and there were nine cases between the ages of 60-79. One person in the category of 80 and over has had it.
Hospitals are not reporting, but based on information provided by people who were confirmed to have covid-19, Bischoff knows that two have been hospitalized.
No current Wahkiakum County residents have died.
The Washington State Department of Health is reporting that 1,036 tests have been conducted so far.
Pacific County added 20 cases on Monday to bring their total of covid-19 cases to 596. Of those, 31 are considered active. They are also reporting three more deaths, for a total of seven.
Cowlitz County is reporting a total of 2,767 cases, with 296 considered active. The county has had 26 deaths related to covid-19.
Across the river, Columbia County is up to 897 cases and 16 deaths, while Clatsop County has had 591 cases and three deaths, according to the Oregon Health Authority.
The health department on Wednesday started scheduling people age 75 and older.
“We will be having one day on the 21st at Johnson Park,” Bischoff said. “They will need to call the screening number 360-849-4041 to get on the schedule. We will not be taking drop ins.
“We administered 130 doses last week,” Bischoff said. “I want to thank everyone who has come forward and gotten their vaccines.”
This Monday and Tuesday another 60 vaccines were administered.
Unfortunately, WHHS has run into a bit of a road block.
While the rest of the state is concentrating on providing the vaccine for the group called 1a, which includes any high risk medical personnel, more locally it is Emergency Medical Services, ambulance crew, and other closely related first responders, home health care workers, Family Health Center staff, public health nurses and support, and the pharmacist.
Wahkiakum has had enough doses and a small enough population to be able to move into the group named 1b, while the rest of the state struggles to get the vaccine out to 1a. Not everyone is happy about that.
“I’m not aware of any other communities that are that far along,” Biscoff said. “That’s a little problematic, in that the state really wants to get the 1a’s done.”
He admitted that there had been some tense conversations with the state health officer.
“I’d like to keep going,” Bischoff said. “For now, we’re going to keep going a bit, but if I get too far ahead they are going to stop sending us vaccine. I’m really trying to make sure we keep as many as we can for Wahkiakum, and give as many people the opportunity to be stuck as we can. If I could, I would do all of them immediately, and let the cards lie, but I think that would penalize us long term. That’s where I’m being cautious, trying to stay off the state’s ‘you’re in trouble’ radar. That’s where we are at.”
WHHS has responded by inviting some 1a personnel in Cowlitz County to receive their vaccinations here.
“It lets us help our neighbors out and it allows us to sort of continue…without stirring up too much resentment,” Bischoff said.
Because Wahkiakum has only been given 500 doses so far, they are not giving them to everybody.
“We’re trying to do it methodically and in a controlled way,” Bischoff said.
To reiterate, WHHS has begun to vaccinate the 1b’s, which include people who are 75 years old and over, 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 employees, agricultural workers, and mental health providers and staff.
“We’ve gotten most, but not all of the 1b’s scheduled, declined, or shot at this point,” Bischoff said.
They are continuing to take names for the 75 and over list, which has already grown to nearly 200 people, and he hopes to begin inviting those folks for vaccinations next week.
Bischoff said that they had been getting flak for vaccinating teachers, because no other teachers in the state had gotten vaccinated yet.
“In my defense, we opened before most other schools and we would like to stay open. Getting the teachers shot is a good step in that direction,” Bischoff said.
“I will keep working through 1b list as I feel like I have enough cover to do so. If it were up to me, I’d already be on that, we would be poking everybody that wanted to be poked,” Bischoff said. “Unfortunately I have to play in the rules.”
Bischoff spoke of a variant of the virus that had been in the news. It is one of hundreds of variants, he said, differentiated by only a few genetic sequences.
“It is significantly more easily spread,” Bischoff said. “It’s in the US. If it’s widespread in the UK, it’s everywhere else too. The world is too closely tied together.”
He said that the current data on the variant does not show an increase in mortality or morbidity, so while the number of cases may go up, the percentage of people going to the hospital or dying does not increase.
“We are already struggling though this massive wave we’ve got going right now, so the concern is that this is going to extend this wave and make it that much harder to get things back under control,” Bischoff said.