County cases still 104; priority is to vaccinate as soon as possible
March 25, 2021
As of Tuesday, there had been no new covid-19 cases for two weeks in Wahkiakum County, leaving the cumulative number at 104. According to the Washington Department of Health, 1,574 tests had been conducted so far.
Nearby in Cowlitz County, 4,481 people had tested positive, with 89 cases considered active, and 61 deaths attributed to covid-19. In Pacific County, they were reporting 822 cases and 10 deaths.
Across the river in Columbia County, 1,313 people had tested positive for covid-19, and 24 people had died. In Clatsop County, they had 807 total cases, with seven deaths attributed to covid-19.
“We’re doing pretty good right now,” Wahkiakum Health and Human Services Director Chris Bischoff said of the county. “We had a bunch circling around the school, but those have fixed themselves and not continued to spread, and that’s all good news for us.”
“This flu season was extremely mild,” Bischoff said. “I have to say, public health people have been saying for awhile now that if you wash your hands, keep your distance, stay home if you’re sick, wear a mask, that we could stop having flu cases. This is just an example of that. It does work.”
“My thought at this point is that no one is talking about delaying the flu vaccine,” he continued. “I assume it will be ready. It may be a little bit behind, but it should be available. People have not stopped working on flu vaccines.
“We are starting to get regular vaccines back in, at least the last two weeks,” Bischoff said. “This week we will give 200 first doses and next week we have 230 people that need second doses, so we will give those.”
They will continue to order more doses.
“We expect that the state will start getting Johnson and Johnson again, either this week or next week. We may be getting some of that. We may not.” Bischoff said.
“The president did small counties like Wahkiakum a huge favor when he said as of May 1 everybody is available,” Bischoff said, “so this whole phasing thing for vaccines just goes away in May.
“In the state, a lot of the bigger entities are having a hard time keeping up. They want to make sure they get most groups largely done before they move on to other groups. That’s great for them, but it doesn’t work well for us. We’re going to start running out if it doesn’t move forward, so the state is changing its dates for timelines for new phases, which is great. We will make sure we have people available for the vaccine doses as they are coming in.”
Wahkiakum had been following Centers for Disease Control guidance about who should get vaccinated when they began because they state had not provided guidance at that time. Because of that, Wahkiakum is already ahead of the state in some areas.
“We’ve hit some of these, but not all of them,” Bischoff said of Phase 1B tier 2. This includes high risk critical workers in some congregate settings; people who are 16 and older and pregnant; or 16 and older with a disability that puts them at risk.
“We will definitely reopen it up to those folks,” Bischoff said. “65 and older are the priority. Some of these won’t apply to our county. This says 16 and older, and we’ve only been getting Moderna, which is for 18 and older. The Astra Zeneca was tested for all age groups, and I believe pregnant women as well, which is new. If the Astra Zeneca is released, it will be available down to six months I believe.”
Both Moderna and Pfizer are working on testing it on sub-18 year olds, all the way down to six months and that age range,” Bischoff said. He expects that in the next two to three months, they will see that 16 plus for Moderna and Pfizer should drop all the way down to kids.
“Which will be timely,” Bischoff said, “because that will be when we are hopefully getting ready to get some kids vaccinated.”
On March 31, people with two or more co-morbidities were added to the list.
“We have a list,” Biscoff said. “We did not ask if you have two or more, nor did we ask you what they are. That’s really going to be more of an honor system. That is an 18 and older list for us, because we do not have a vaccine that goes below 18. The other part is the 60-64 age group, so we will probably be rolling that out soon.”
“They are making it so complicated that public health people have to read these things 20 times to understand them. I wish they would simplify this, but it isn’t. I do my best. In reality, as long as we have enough vaccine again, I’m not going to be picky about it.”
“This causes some friction because I may have given a vaccine to someone who works the counter at the Chevron, while in our neighboring county they may not think they meet the qualifications,” Bischoff said. “For me, it’s get the vaccine in, get it out as quickly as possible, that’s my end goal. We have our lists, we’re working those.”
The governor rescinded his travel guidance in favor of the CDC’s guidance, Bischoff said. “Generally it breaks down into don’t travel if you can help it. There are stories about airlines looking for fully vaccinated people, so they can pack their airplanes more. They feel like with fully vaccinated people, that is something they should be able to do.
“Don’t be surprised if you are booking your airline travel, if your seat price for unvaccinated is twice what it is for vaccinated.”
“We are officially in Phase 3 today,” Bischoff said Monday. “They made the metrics much simpler. To be in Phase 3, you have to have less than 30 new covid-19 cases over 14 days. No matter how you slice our covid-19 cases in Wahkiakum County, we have never hit 30 cases in 14 days. The one that would be easier to hit, would be to have three hospitalizations in one week.”
There is no indication when Phase 4 will be available. Nobody knows what it will look like.
“All schools as of April 1 have to have some in person classes,” Bischoff said. “Then the CDC came out and said we need to cut six feet spacing to three feet. A lot of European schools are doing that and seem to be doing okay with it. I don’t think the data was super great. Obviously the teacher unions are not buying off on that.”
“You look at having much more impact as far as how many kids will have to be pulled out of school. You are just increasing risk at that point,” he added. “I’m not a super fan of that; the state has not adopted that yet. “
“Safeway continues to get their own supply,” Bischoff noted. “Kaiser Permanente is starting to get shipments. Even if you aren’t a patient, you should call and see if you can get a vaccine. Cowlitz County still intends to do their drive ups on Wednesdays and Thursdays; now is a good time to get a hold of them. PeaceHealth has vaccines available. RiteAid has vaccines available.”
“Please use all of those,” Bischoff said. “Make sure you are on Wahkiakum’s list. It does not hurt my feelings if you get your vaccine somewhere else. I just want to get you vaccinated .”