County cases still 104; vaccination effort soars
April 1, 2021
Wahkiakum County has gone three weeks without a new case of covid-19, and as of Monday, there were zero active cases. According to the Washington Department of Health, 1,610 tests have been conducted so far.
In Cowlitz County, there have been 4,614 confirmed cases of covid-19, with 147 considered active. There have been 62 deaths attributed to the virus. Pacific has had 844 positive tests, with 11 considered active. They are reporting 10 deaths.
Across the river in Columbia County, they have had 1,364 confirmed cases and 24 deaths, while in Clatsop County, they are reporting 836 total cases and seven deaths.
“Things are not going stunningly for covid-19,” Wahkiakum Health and Human Services Director Chris Bischoff said on Monday. “We plateaued, and the U.S. has started moving up, and Washington is one of those states that has started moving up a little faster than some of the others.”
“This week we will give out about 230-240 second doses, and an additional 160 first doses,” Bischoff said. “At that point, we don’t have anybody else on our list. We are going to keep ordering vaccines, but that is a problem because we can’t keep vaccines. We have to get them out as soon as we can.”
Part of the problem is that phasing for vaccinations is moving slowly in the state right now.
“There isn’t really anything I can do about that,” Bischoff said. “I can’t go out and recruit people out of phase, because they will stop giving me vaccine if I do that. The state is trying to remove barriers, so they took away the Phase Finder, or it’s going away, because it was ending up being too much of a barrier for people to get vaccinated.
“Many states have opened up vaccine eligibility to everyone over the age of 16. Washington has not gotten there yet. It really is the big cities having a hard time trying to get to the most impacted groups, the 65 and older groups. They’ve asked to go slower. Obviously, the President has said that by May 1st, everyone goes. What we are hearing is that the governor is considering within the next couple weeks, just opening up, which would be great for us.”
“I think the other thing we are starting to run into is vaccine hesitancy,” Bischoff said. “I think some people think that you will stop hearing about vaccines by June, but that’s not true. I promise you, whenever you talk to me for the next two years, I will be talking to you about getting a vaccine, or getting people around you vaccinated.”
Vaccine clinic in Rosburg
WHHS will be in Rosburg next Wednesday to do a vaccine clinic.
“We are going to order Johnson and Johnson this week, and hopefully if we get that, that is what we will be giving in Rosburg, which does not require us to return four weeks later,” Bischoff said.
He assured citizens that the department will continue to go to Rosburg for more clinics in the future.
16 or 18 and older?
The state’s guidelines say that vaccines can be given to people who are 16 and older who have underlying conditions but in Wahkiakum, you have to be 18 or older.
Why? Because so far, the county has only received the Moderna vaccine, which is only available to people who are 18 and older. If the county receives the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which is okay for people as young as 16, that could change. But because Bischoff can’t be certain which vaccine he will receive, the guideline for the county will stay at 18.
Who can get vaccinated?
“I can’t recruit out of phase, but the folks up front, who schedule our clinics and put people on the list are not asking.” Bischoff said.
Anyone who is 65 and older, 50 and older and living in a multigenerational household, or 18 and older with underlying conditions is encouraged to call WHHS and get on the list, 360-849-4041.
The age range is lowering, so anyone 60 and over is now encouraged to call and get on the list for a vaccination.
“Folks with underlying conditions, please call,” Bischoff said. “We aren’t going to ask you what they are, we aren’t even going to ask if you have them. We don’t want to know. Just call us and tell us you want a vaccine and we will put you on our list.”
There is a lot of hand wringing over who is a critical worker, Bischoff said.
“Just call and get on the list, I’m not going to parse that out,” he continued. “It’s mind bogglingly too complex. I run out of words to describe how frustrating this whole tiered system is to begin with. Essentially, anyone you know who is interested, tell them to call and get on our list.”
Bischoff addressed a lot of misinformation about vaccines, addressing issues like autism, sterility, microchips and more before saying that he would love to see 100 percent vaccination. He admits that it is unlikely.
“If we reach 60-70 percent of folks that get vaccination, that is a low end,” he said. “We may approach what technically would enter a herd immunity standard. In this range where we barely clear the bar, we’re going to have a persistent level of covid in humanity. Not just the U.S. This is a worldwide problem. We are going to retain a persistent level of the SARS virus going around, which will give more opportunities for mutations to occur in the virus. That means that people who are vaccinated will have less protection.”
“We saw this in Washington with measles,” he said.
“When you choose not to get a vaccine, you have a right to make a personal choice, but you are making a choice for everyone around you as well,” Bischoff said. “We all live together. It’s a big old fishbowl we’re swimming in. You make that choice, you’ve made it for your community as well.”
“If we can get to 80-90 percent vaccination, we can make this an extremely rare thing,” he added. “We then lower the levels of persistent covid to the point where mutations are very rare and infrequent. We could make the disease stop existing largely if 95-98 percent of the population got vaccinated.”