County now at 73: vaccinations made when vaccine is available
January 28, 2021
As of Tuesday, the number of cases of covid-19 in Wahkiakum County had risen to 73, with 16 considered to be potentially active, according to Wahkiakum Health and Human Services. The Washington Department of Health was reporting that 1,201 tests had been conducted so far, and that two people had been hospitalized.
In Cowlitz County, there have been a total of 3,565 cases, with 395 currently considered active. They are reporting 36 deaths related to covid-19. Pacific County has had 678 cases so far, with 38 are considered active. Eight people have died.
Across the river in Columbia County, they are up to 1,082 total cases and 18 deaths and in Clatsop County, they added 11 new cases on Tuesday to bring their total to 718. They have had five deaths related to covid-19.
“One year ago last Thursday, the first case in the US was announced, which happened to be in Snohomish County,” WHHS Director Chris Bischoff said. “The second week of February, my phone started ringing off the hook, and that’s when it really became clear—when the long term care facility in Seattle had their outbreak—and it was obvious that we were heading in a not great direction.
“Of course, nobody knew how not great, but here we are.”
Vaccines in county
Bischoff said that the health department had given out more than 700 doses. A few have been given to 1a people in Cowlitz and Pacific Counties, a gesture of goodwill to counties that have only been able to vaccinate 1.8 percent and 4.6 percent of their populations respectively, at least according to data Bischoff had from last week.
“People get upset that we are helping our neighbors out,” he added. “I’m not helping them out a ton. I’m helping them out a little, because their percentages are pretty low, and because we need 60-70 percent of everybody around us to be vaccinated, which includes them. We’re really just helping ourselves.”
For the last two weeks, the health department has been using all the first doses they have on hand, including during their clinic at Johnson Park in Rosburg last Thursday, which Bischoff described as successful.
Every week, WHHS receives 100 first doses, which usually arrive sometime between Monday and Wednesday. Bischoff hopes that pattern will continue.
No one is scheduled until they show up.
WHHS began administering the first of the second doses on Monday. Second doses are automatically ordered, Bischoff said, based on the number the health department received four weeks prior.
“There is a lot of confusion about whether the second doses will be there, especially with the United Kingdom doing what they are doing, in skipping second doses,” Bischoff said. “We’re not doing that in the US, we’re not doing that in Washington.”
WHHS is still vaccinating people who are 65 and older. They are scheduling people as soon as they have vaccines, and are still inviting anyone 65 and older to call 360-849-4041 to get on the list.
There are no plans for an automated system to sign up people for vaccines in the county. For now, WHHS is working off a spreadsheet.
“We call them back in the order that we got them,” Bischoff said. “Once they give us their name, they don’t have to do anything else.”
He asks callers to be patient and wait for WHHS to call back.
“My staff is pretty overloaded,” Bischoff said. “I hope folks will remain calm. We will get to them. We are not skipping anybody.”
After everyone 65 and over has been vaccinated, WHHS will turn their attention to people who live in multigenerational households or have underlying conditions.
Again, Bischoff asks for patience.
“Right now, please, do not call us if you fall into either of these categories,” he said. “We don’t have a list going. We are not close to those. I understand folks are concerned and want to get the vaccine. We need you to have a little patience, we are doing this as fast as we can.”
The department has been preparing for a possible increase in the number of doses they have been receiving, which Bischoff believes could happen as early as the end of February, but so far they are able to manage the 100 doses they are getting each week.
A slow decline in the number of cases
“Across the US, [cases] are generally going down,” Bischoff said, adding that some states were still struggling.
“We’re coming down pretty fast in Washington, as far as new cases per day,” he said. “It is the first month in three months that we haven’t gone up. We got less of a bump from New Years than we thought.”
“We are still in Phase 1, we will remain in Phase 1,” Bischoff said. “Since we are tied to Clark County, it’s probably going to stay that way for awhile.”
Dealing with variants
A variant of the virus, B.1.1.7, which is believed to be more transmissible, has been detected in Washington State, Bischoff said. He said there was conflicting data about whether or not it was more deadly than the original strain.
“The swab isn’t looking for strains,” Bischoff said. “It’s just looking for covid-19. You have to take those positive tests and do analysis on those to figure out if they are a variant or not.”
He said that the Washington State Public Health Lab was going to start doing the genetic testing, and that independent labs like LabCorps had been doing some surveillance, taking some of the positive tests for a closer look for variants.
Moderna is adjusting its vaccine to combat the variants as well, Bischoff added.
“If you’ve already had your first dose, you aren’t missing out. Get your second dose,” he said. “The Moderna vaccine, without being adjusted, covers all the known variants. Moderna is broadening their vaccine out a little bit. Worst case is that if you get your first and second dose now, you will have to go in and get a booster, which covers some extra variants.”
“We do know that B.1.1.7 does spread more effectively,” Bischoff said. “There is tons of concern being caused by that. We are starting to ramp down, the last thing we need is for this variant to become more prevalent and ramp us back up.”
Variants or not, the recommendations remain the same. Wear a mask, stay six feet apart, avoid crowds, get the vaccine.
There are no additional requirements for quarantine or isolation, whether you contract the predominant covid-19 or one of its variants.
“If you have covid-19 or in close contact with someone who has covid-19, you need to stay home,” Bischoff said.
He also asked everyone to continue to be careful as the vaccines are rolled out.
“The more we have them, the more people get comfortable,” he said. “We have to stay diligent for a few more months.”