County cases still 104; Downward trend welcomed
March 18, 2021
With no new covid-19 cases in the last week, Wahkiakum County’s cumulative number remained at 104. According to the Washington Department of Health, 1,554 tests have been conducted in the county so far.
In Cowlitz County, 4,402 people have tested positive for covid-19, and 59 have died. Pacific County is reporting their 816th case, with 10 deaths.
Across the river in Columbia County, there have been 1,298 confirmed cases, and 23 deaths attributed to covid-19.
“The downward trend continues,” Wahkiakum Health and Human Services Director Chris Bischoff said. “It would be nice to see it drop off a little faster, but 19 percent downward in overall cases per day, 31 percent in deaths and 23 percent in hospitalizations.”
“Still, every county around us has heavy person to person spread. There is really no safe place to be traveling to. I know a lot of people are traveling more often now. I’m not going to try to rain on that parade, just remember that wherever you go, you’ve got to be cautious. Being on vacation doesn’t mean being on vacation from our little pandemic.”
February was Wahkiakum’s biggest month on record, but there hasn’t been a new case in a week, Bischoff said, noting that he had learned that morning that a number of people who had been considered close contacts had tested negative.
According to the demographics so far, most of the cases in the county, 82, have been in the Cathlamet zip code. There have been 11 cases in the Skamokawa zip code. Grays River and Rosburg zip codes have had four cases apiece, and the portion of Wahkiakum County that is within the Naselle zip code has had three cases.
There have been 35 cases in people between the ages of 40 and 59; 24 cases in youths between the age of 0 and 19; 22 cases in people age 20-39; 18 cases in people 60 to 79; and five cases in people 80 and over.
Going by gender, 57 males have tested positive, and 47 females have as well.
“As of March 22, the governor is moving the whole state into Phase 3,” Bischoff said. “Every county will stay in Phase 3 for two weeks before they readjust.”
Bischoff also said that all schools in the state will be required to return to hybrid learning at least, by April 1.
Mask wearing at work
Bischoff said he had heard people insisting that they no longer had to wear masks to work because they were vaccinated and so were their co-workers.
“Rules for work places have not changed,” Bischoff said in response. “The governor has the right to be more stringent than the Centers for Disease Control recommendations, and there are still a number of proclamations in place by the governor with rules on masks. He has not changed any of them. If you own a business or work in government, those rules are still in effect.”
That’s at work, but at other times, guidelines are a little different.
People who are fully vaccinated, which means two weeks after your second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine or two weeks after the Johnson and Johnson single dose, can gather indoors without a mask with other people who are also fully vaccinated, or indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household.
“Part of what is going on is that we are still learning how well these vaccinations work,” Bischoff said. “We know how well they are preventing covid-19 from happening, but we are still learning how well they prevent the spread of the virus.”
“So this is the guidance for now, but it will change again, I promise, multiple times, before we tell everyone to take their masks off,” Bischoff continued.
“If you are a close contact and you’ve been fully vaccinated,” Bischoff said, “you don’t have to quarantine or isolate unless you have symptoms.”
“The (Cowlitz) Family Health Center received 500 doses of Johnson and Johnson last week, a direct federal allotment. I know our local clinic has sent some people there,” Bischoff said. “If you know people that are eligible that we haven’t been able to get to yet, you might call the local clinic and see if they can get you scheduled. You don’t have to be one of their clients.”
Safeway has been administering Johnson and Johnson vaccines as well.
“Use every alternative you can,” Bischoff advised, adding that Wahkiakum should be getting first doses again.
“We will be calling people this week to give doses next week,” he said. “As long as I keep getting vaccine, I’m going to keep giving it out. Right now we have plenty of people on our list, that will keep us busy for a few more weeks.”
People are still welcome to call 360-849-4041 to get on their lists which include anyone 65 and older; anyone 50 and over in a multi-generational household; anyone 18 and over with underlying conditions; and people who meet this criteria and are home bound.
Bischoff continues to recommend that people get tested for covid-19 if they are symptomatic.
“I’m hearing that people are afraid to get tested, that they don’t want to miss work or school,” he said. “I understand the significant ramifications that this has on people’s lives. I do. But we are trying to fight a disease. It’s a pandemic. We need people to get tested if they are ill. It may not be convenient for you, but it is important for society that it be done.”
“Please help people understand,” he said. “It’s not all about them, the inconveniences, as serious as they felt for them, is nothing compared to killing people or making them seriously sick, or sending them to the hospital, or infecting multiple families because you went to work or school sick and exposed dozens of people instead of staying home. If people could think outside their own personal interests for a little longer, we could get out of this.”