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

Covid update

County's case load hits 104; high case rate a concern, especially among teenagers


March 11, 2021

As of Tuesday, the cumulative number of covid-19 cases in Wahkiakum County had risen to 104, with 18 considered potentially active. According to the Washington Department of Health, 1,529 tests had been conducted, and five people had been hospitalized.

In Pacific County, they were reporting a total of 798 positive tests for covid-19, with 35 considered active. They were attributing 10 deaths to the virus.

In Cowlitz County, 4,333 people have tested positive for covid-19, and 97 of those cases are considered active. They are attributing 58 deaths to covid-19.

Across the river in Columbia County, they have had 1,285 confirmed cases and 21 deaths, and in Clatsop County, they are reporting 779 confirmed cases and six deaths.

“The governor has paused moving forward in phases in the state,” Wahkiakum Health and Human Services Director Chris Bischoff said. “We are still at a pretty high case rate. Even if the [average over the] last seven [days] holds out and we are right around the 500 number, we’re still higher than we were in August. That is problematic. We need to get cases down.”

This includes Wahkiakum County.

“We had one of the worst months in February,” Bischoff said. “A lot of people, including me, have not been happy that the phasing has been regional, but right now that really works in our favor, and really has the entire time.

“If we were forced to go by our case counts per the population, we would not have even moved into Phase 2 at this point. It does actually benefit us.

“We need folks in Wahkiakum to understand: put your masks on, stay at home, distance, wash your hands, all the things, please. Our case counts are not going down like the rest of the state.”

According to Bischoff, they have recently seen an increase in the 0-19 age range testing positive for covid-19 in the county.

“We need teenagers to take it into serious consideration,” he said. “I think the message for a long time has been that kids aren’t as heavily affected, which is true, but they are still capable of getting it and passing it on, which then increases our community burden.”

“I know it’s tough to keep following these rules and tough to have separation,” Bischoff continued. “When you’re young, in those teenage years, it’s tough to see you need to be good for another few months, especially if you’ve been trying to be good for awhile. I certainly get it, but what we need to get the message out about, is that we’re having a problem in Wahkiakum, and we need folks to take this seriously a little longer.”


Of the states and territories reporting, 49 have found the B.1.1.7 or United Kingdom variant, Bischoff said, with only Oklahoma and South Dakota not reporting any yet.

“I would not say they don’t have any cases there,” Bischoff said. “Our surveillance of this is poor in the United States. I would guess that in those two states, their surveillance is more poor than most. One, because they are not super populated and two, because they don’t spend money on public health. Even in our state, where we tend to pay more attention to public health, we don’t have great surveillance for this either. The generic test to find covid-19 is complicated, but far simpler than a very specific test to find these variants.”

The states, the federal government, and the Centers for Disease Control are trying to ramp up those tests, but the country is well behind where it should be, Bischoff said.

“What we know about these variants, which are from South Africa, Brazil, and the UK is that they share a common mutation that helps them spread more easily,” he added. “There is some indication, and I want to put a big asterisk on this, at least two of these variants tend to spread more quickly among youth.”

Which has him wondering, with the rise in cases in local youth, if some of those variants are in Wahkiakum County. So far, he’s had no confirmation.


Wahkiakum County was able to administer another 230 doses last week and have now given a total of 1,082 doses, Bischoff said, with 803 people receiving their second dose.

“There are some folks we can’t get a hold of for their second dose,” he continued. “I think it’s less than 20. The same phone numbers don’t work. We try to reach out to friends of friends. I guess they figured one was enough.”

Despite requests, the county will not be receiving doses this week. WHHS will try again next week.

“I’m making noise up in the state,” Bischoff said, “you’ve got to give me something every week.”

Washington State will receive 60,000 doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, but none of them are coming to Wahkiakum County.

“They are giving those all to the counties that are way behind,” Bischoff said.

Some are going to Cowlitz County, and to Safeway.

“Safeway is a federal allotment, and so they shouldn’t be too specific about whether you are from Cowlitz or not,” Bischoff said. “That allotment from the feds was supposed to help places that are not getting vaccines allotted to them equitably, which would include rural areas, which we are. The problem is that as soon as they announce, they tend to fill up quickly, and they are not easy to navigate for people who are not tech savvy.”

To sign up for a vaccination at Safeway:

To learn about opportunities to get vaccinated in Cowlitz County:

Merck has agreed to help manufacture the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, Bischoff said, which will make it significantly more available. He said there had also been talk about Merck helping with the Moderna vaccine.

“That’s one of the reasons that I have a lot of hope that as we approach April, we will start seeing vaccines start coming in pretty rapidly,” Bischoff said.

“Right now, people are lining up to get the vaccine,” he said. “We know in a month or two it’s going to flip and we will be begging people to come. It’s really about trying to help folks that are vaccine hesitant to understand that if they want to go back to normal, stop wearing masks, start having restaurants going back to full capacity, bars open, concerts and movies, that they need to step up and get the vaccine.”

So far, the county has had no say in what vaccine they receive, and Bischoff took a moment to clarify a comment he made last week which has been taken out of context by some members in the community.

“I don’t know if at some point we might have a choice,” Bischoff said. “At that point, if I have both and they are available, you will absolutely be able to choose. But, my point being is that if all I’m getting is Moderna or all I’m getting is Johnson and Johnson, and I call your number, come and get it.”

When do I take my mask off?

“Two states, Texas and Mississippi, have announced that they are repealing the mask mandate. People are still allowed to wear masks, but they don’t have to,” Bischoff said. “I don’t think we’re ready for this yet. You’ve got to see that 60 to 70 percent number [for herd immunity]. There is a good chance that a lot of states are going to start removing their masks sooner than that if we don’t have another wave come.

“I think that’s a bad idea. I do not support Texas or Mississippi’s determination. I think it’s political, not based on health or science.

“We’ll get there. The when is, I’m hoping late spring or summer is when we will be told, we’re close enough, we can take our masks off.”

For more information on current guidelines for what you can and can’t do if you are vaccinated:

Get on the list

Anyone who is 65 or older, 50 or older and living in a multi-generational household, over 18 with an underlying condition, or home bound and would like to get on a list to receive a covid-19 vaccine in Wahkiakum County when they become available, call 360-849-4041.

To reach the state’s Covid-19 Assistance Hotline: Dial 1-800-525-0127, then press #. If you can’t reach the hotline via the regular number, the state says to call their alternate number, 888-856-5816. A Spanish option is available. The call center is staffed Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and on weekends from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.


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