County cases reach 100; Schools deal with exposure
March 4, 2021
On Tuesday, the count of covid-19 cases in Wahkiakum County had reached 100. Of those, 19 were considered potentially active.
According to the Washington Department of Health, 1,483 tests of county residents have been conducted, and five people in the county have been hospitalized.
There have been 4,248 cases of covid-19 in Cowlitz County, with 94 considered active. They are attributing 54 deaths to the virus. Pacific County reported 21 new cases on Monday, for a total of 762 cases. Of those, 26 are considered active. As of Feb. 24, 10 people had died of covid-19 in the county. Across the river in Clatsop County, they’ve had 775 cases and six deaths, while in Columbia County, they are reporting 1,271 and 21 deaths.
“The governor announced that everybody who is in Phase 2 will stay in Phase 2 for at least another two weeks,” Wahkiakum Health and Human Services (WHHS) Director Chris Bischoff said. “They do not even have the metrics drawn up for Phase 3, or what that is going to look like, and there is some concern that Phase 3 may not be an option.”
Cases affecting Cathlamet schools
“We are having some ongoing case stuff revolving around the school,” Bischoff said. “Not necessarily in the school, though we’ve had some there. What we are really trying to do is get that under control. Some folks are less than happy that we are telling them to quarantine, but we are 100 percent not backing off from that because we really need to keep the school open for people to learn. [Superintendent Brent Freeman] has taken some steps, we’re taking other steps.
“We’re doing our best to try and make sure we keep it out of school as much as possible and keep providing schools with an education, the best education that we can under covid-19 conditions.”
New case rate heading down and leveling
“Leveling is not a good thing,” Bischoff said. “The problem is where we are leveling off at. We are leveling off right at the peak of the summer outbreak. That’s not good. One of the chief reasons that is not good, is that a couple of the variants that we are tracking, the U.K. variant and the South African variant, are much easier to spread than many of the other covid-19 variants.”
“Hope is that the vaccines that are coming can grab this and hold it down,” Bischoff continued. “We need folks, whether they’ve had covid-19 before, or been vaccinated, to do social distancing and masking. We need a few more months.”
“We need that message to get out in our community,” he said. “We are seeing some very troubling things happening with covid-19 spread in the community. So we need to get our hands around that very quickly.”
Johnson and Johnson got their emergency use authorization over the weekend, Bischoff said.
“It’s less effective than the other two, but if it is the one that I have to give you, take it. It’s still really good,” he added.
Moderna and Pfizer were in the 90 percent range for efficacy, Bischoff pointed out, while Johnson and Johnson was shown to be 85 percent effective against severe forms of covid-19.
“While you may still get covid-19, It is less likely to be severe,” Bischoff said. “They literally had no one on their trial be hospitalized or pass away from covid-19 disease.”
“It’s still really effective. If that’s the only vaccine we had, it would be fine. We could get out of this covid-19 mess with it.
“It’s not a runner up, it’s another incredibly important, useful, effective tool in our toolbox,” Bischoff said. So if you get called for a vaccine, don’t ask which one. You’re going to get the one we’ve got and it’s going to be fine.”
Bischoff said that WHHS had ordered enough second doses to pay back St. John Hospital for the 150 doses they had loaned the county.
“Because many of their patients are people that we are vaccinating in this county, they said to keep them and give them as first doses,” Bischoff said. “We actually have two days of shots going on this week. We’ll do a little over 200 doses. That’s good news because we are probably not going to get another shipment for a few more weeks.”
“We’re way ahead as far as the list goes,” he said. “We did 1b out of order, because the state hadn’t listed their guidance yet, so we just followed the CDC guidance. We took it a little bit out of order from what the state would have preferred. We’re going to be done with 1b pretty quickly.
“And we really can’t move forward from that. It is a huge debate at the state level with what to do with that. You’re telling an entire community that they will stop getting vaccines because they are ahead of the rest of the state? That doesn’t work really well.
“I’m lobbying for the state to not take us down to zero. If they need to, reduce and give us less than 100 every week, but continue to give us some so we can continue to move forward and feel like we are making progress.”
Homebound residents should call
Bischoff said that WHHS has come up with a plan to provide vaccines to people in the community who were homebound, and were either 65 and over; 50 and older and in a multigenerational household; or 18 and older with underlying conditions.
Anyone meeting those conditions has been asked to call 360-849-4041.
“We’re happy to do it for people who honestly cannot get out of their houses,” Bischoff said. “This will be expensive on a personnel basis.
“People who would rather not leave their house, I’m sorry, I need you to come to the vaccination site. We are doing many things to keep you safe. What we don’t have is the time to visit your house if you are capable of getting out.”
“It is a huge undertaking to do this,” he added. “It has to happen at the same time we’re doing a shot clinic. It will have to be when we are ready to go, not when they are ready for us to come.”
Bischoff encouraged anyone with transportation issues to contact their office and suggested that anyone with eligibility to use Medicare transport. He also added that they hope to move the clinic around at some point, to make it more accessible.
We haven’t reached herd immunity
Bischoff said that about 20 percent of the county had been vaccinated. He suggested that if another 20 percent of the county had had covid-19, whether they knew it or not, that would only bring the county to 40 percent immunity.
“Herd immunity does not even begin to kick in until 60 to 70 percent,” Bischoff said. We are nowhere near herd immunity. I can say that with a high level of confidence. We keep having cases, and they are being spread around. If we were near herd immunity, we would not be getting four or five cases every week or so. These aren’t people picking it up from somewhere else and bringing it in like it was early on. We’ve got covid-19 in the county, being actively spread from person to person.”
“My guess is, if you want to factor vaccines into herd immunity, it will be April before we see significant impact on that,” he said.
Bischoff recommended that people continue to come in and get tested if they are having symptoms.
“A couple of our cases recently went about their business for a couple weeks while they had covid-19,” Bischoff said. “The results of that are pretty significant. The number of close contacts that they had were a lot. We need people to realize that’s not okay. If you have symptoms, you need to get tested. If you get tested, you need to stay home till you get your results back.”