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

Covid-19 update

County case count hits 81; over 900 vaccinations done

 

February 4, 2021



On Tuesday, Wahkiakum Health and Human Services reported that six more Wahkiakum County residents had tested positive for covid-19, bringing the total to 81. Of those, 16 are considered active.

When Washington State went into shut down in March 2020, the average number of new cases per day was 193. In January 2021, the average number of new cases per day was 1,987.

“Everybody is whining about not opening up fast enough and these are our numbers,” Bischoff said. “What has changed? Our tolerance has changed. The disease has gotten worse through many of its variants, and its ability to spread. It is as fatal as it has ever been, almost percentage wise, once we got past the point of knowing how to treat it.”

Bischoff has been looking at the demographics of covid-19 in the county for the last two months. Working from the 73 cases reported as of January 20, 88 percent are considered recovered. As far as WHHS knows, two people have been hospitalized, and none have died.

People between the ages of 40-59 had the largest percentage of cases, numbered at 30. There were 17 cases in people aged 20-39, 15 cases in people aged 60-79, 10 cases in youths aged 0-19, and one person over the age of 80 had the virus.

As far as gender, 38 women tested positive, with men close behind at 35.

The cases were also broken down by zip code. There were 58 cases in the Cathlamet zip code, six in the Skamokawa zip code, four in the Rosburg zip code, three in the Naselle zip code, and two in the Grays River zip code.

Vaccinations

WHHS has given over 900 first doses of the vaccine to county residents, Bischoff said, reaching about 19.5 percent of the population. They have given some of the doses to emergency medical personnel outside of the county as a gesture of goodwill, but 90 percent of the vaccines have gone to local people.

As of Tuesday, WHHS had zero first doses of the vaccine on hand and had not yet received confirmation that another hundred doses would arrive this week.

“We are eagerly anticipating that they will continue to give us vaccine,” Bischoff said, “hopefully. Second doses are auto-ordered, so we already have our second doses for this upcoming week.”

WHHS is continuing to provide vaccines as they receive them to the people 65 and older who have called to get on the list. People in this category may register for a vaccination by calling the health department at 360-849-4041.

“The list is still long enough to keep us busy pretty close to the end of February,” Bischoff said, “if we still keep getting 100 doses per week.”

When everyone 65 and older is vaccinated, they will move on to folks with underlying conditions and people over 50 who live in multi-generational households. However, they are not yet taking names for those categories, so don’t call yet.

Phase 1 of the Roadmap to Recovery Plan

“We are still in Phase 1,” Bischoff said. “Two regions have moved into Phase 2, the Puget Sound region, which is essentially King County and Pierce County and what is known as the West Region, which is Pacific, Lewis, Thurston, and Grays County.”

“Our cases per day were too much till very recently in Wahkiakum, but we are probably fine now,” Bischoff said, “But Cowlitz and Clark are not fine.”

There have been a few changes to the plan, and one of them is why the Puget Sound Region and the West Region were able to move to Phase 2.

Earlier, a region had to meet all four of the following metrics to move to Phase 2: show a decreasing trend in the 14 day rate of new covid-19 cases per 100,000 population, a decreasing trend in 14 day rate of new covid-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 population, an average seven day occupancy of ICU staffed beds less than 90 percent, and a seven day percent positivity of covid 19 tests less than 10 percent.

Now regions only need to meet three of the four metrics.

Also, regions were being evaluated every Thursday, but now evaluations will be done every two weeks.

“Apparently that was better. I don’t think it’s better,” Bischoff said. “The current phases are locked in, and the earliest we could move is February 15.”

Why did Wahkiakum end up in the Southwest Region with Cowlitz and Clark County?

“I have no idea,” Bischoff said. “No one asked us. They just did it. Ask the Washington Department of Health, and they don’t know. It didn’t come out of the health system. Their excuse was that it sort of follows our traffic patterns of using medical services. It’s sort of true for Wahkiakum, but I don’t buy it.”

Variants

For the first time during the pandemic, state health officers were finally able to talk to representatives from the Centers for Disease Control.

“They were literally not allowed to get on calls with us,” Bischoff said. “They were very happy that it changed, and we were very happy that it changed.”

The group spent most of the time talking about variants, which is a big concern for both the CDC and the health officers in the state, Bischoff said.

B.1.17, or the United Kingdom variant, spreads more easily than many of the other variants. It is not more fatal, Bischoff noted, it just increases the number of people who get sick, which drives up fatality numbers.

The UK has a lot of data on the variant, but has not released the information, which is problematic for the U.S.

“We know we have B.1.17 here,” Bischoff said. “We actually have it in our state. We are going to have to come up with our own data as we analyze it moving forward.”

A California variant and a South African variant have also shown up around the U.S.

While the first two spread faster, the South African variant is more resistant to the vaccines, Bischoff said.

Moderna and Pfizer have found that the South African variant has reduced the efficacy of their vaccines, but Bischoff said they were still pretty effective.

Meanwhile, the Johnson and Johnson vaccine might come out in a couple weeks.

“It is a one shot vaccine which stores at normal refrigerator temperatures,” Bischoff said. “It’s also a part of the former administration’s Warp Speed vaccine development, so there will be a bunch of doses. I think they will have two million doses on hand as soon as it is approved to ship out.”

While the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have a 95 percent efficacy rate, and may drop down into the 80 percent range with the South African variant, Johnson and Johnson starts at 70-80 percent efficacy, dropping down to the 50-60 percent range with the same variant.

“Dr. Fauci says you still want that one,” Bischoff said. “If that is the vaccine that is available, get it. He’s right. The flu vaccine is 50-60 percent. If we can get a large number of people with that one in them we can knock this thing out. If we call your name for a vaccine, and it happens to be Johnson and Johnson, be grateful. That one will help you not die as well.”

Should we be doubling our masks?

“Dr. Fauci says ‘sure, why not,’” Bischoff said. “A bigger impact would be making sure that masks fit well and are at least two layers of close knit material. The KN95 is nearly as good as the N95 and does offer better protection than cloth masks or the procedure masks.”

As for the N95 and the KN95, they are more protective, he said, but you still have to wear them correctly. There is no shortage of them at this time, but as people begin wearing them and throwing them away, which is the correct way to use them, there will quickly be a shortage.

As for Bischoff, he will continue to wear a single mask that is thick or double fabric.

 

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