Wahkiakum cases now 129 as county encounters a surge
May 27, 2021
With four more cases of covid-19 reported on Monday, the cumulative number rose to 129 in Wahkiakum County, with 14 considered active.
There were six new cases on Friday and four on Monday, and Wahkiakum Health and Human Services Director Chris Bischoff had been fielding questions about it being an outbreak.
“Kind of,” was Bischoff’s response. “But there is not a central source. We are not seeing it come out of one place. There are several family units involved, and those families do not seem to have a common source, as far as our investigations go.”
As for Washington State, Bischoff said they are beginning to see a downward trend in new cases per day and in hospitalizations.
“For May, we are at about 960 new cases per day, which is a nice decline from April, and I think it is going to head even further south than that,” Bischoff said.
Quick antigen tests
The quick antigen tests that can be purchased at the drugstore are not very accurate, Bischoff said.
“It adds more problems for us than creates solutions,” he said. “We don’t list them as a case until they’ve actually had the full lab. I can only do a partial investigation of those. I think people are quitting once they get the antigen test. The problem is the antigen test is known for giving out false negatives and false positives.”
“I’m not saying don’t take an antigen test, I’m just saying don’t stop there,” Bischoff said. “If you feel really cruddy and have covid-like symptoms, and take an antigen test that says negative, I’d still go out and get the PCR test done anyway.”
Masks in the work place
Labor and Industries has finally come out with guidance about masks, Bischoff said.
“If you work in an office or a grocery store, or whatever, you can take your mask off if you are vaccinated,” he said. “That’s great but L&I is requiring that the employer must confirm that employees are fully vaccinated.”
Employees must provide proof either with their vaccination card, a photo of the card filled out for them, which a health care provider or state immunization system can provide, or another option some health officers are not happy about.
“The one that I don’t care for, and other health officers have asked us to encourage not to use, is having an employee sign an attestation,” Bischoff said.
Employers have to demonstrate that they have completed this verification.
As far as customers coming in, they are still required to wear masks, unless they are vaccinated.
“You don’t need to check them,” Bischoff said, “they can be on the honor system.”
A new app called myirmobile.com, allows Washington residents to access all of their vaccination records.
It could be a useful tool, but bugs are still getting worked out because it was pushed out before it was ready, Bischoff said.
In Wahkiakum County, 48 percent of the population that is 16 and over has had one shot.
“It’s not great, but we’re getting better,” Bischoff said.
There were a number of clinics in the county in the last week, including ones organized by the National Guard, and while there wasn’t a big turnout, more people were vaccinated, which Bischoff was pleased to report.
WHHS will hold walk in clinics at the health department every Monday and Wednesday, except for holidays, from 9 a.m. to noon and 1:30 to 3 p.m.
“We started this last Wednesday and had 18-20 people just walk in, which was great,” Bischoff said.
They still have a lot of vaccines on hand, and plan to use Pfizer at their walk in clinics, but Johnson and Johnson will be available for anyone who wants it.
Call 360-849-4041 for more information.
“One hundred percent vaccination is always the goal for public health,” Bischoff said. “Herd immunity percentage for this one is not clear yet, because it takes time to suss that out. We know it’s greater than 70 percent, but it’s probably around 80. So the sort of interim goal is to get to 70 percent, which would get us much closer to a herd immunity number.
“Why am I pushing 100 percent? Because that is the goal for every vaccination ever. I guess I would clarify that as 100 percent of everyone who can get a vaccination, not ‘want to.’ There are some who medically can’t have vaccines for certain reasons. Right now, no one under the age of 12 can. And so I would like 100 percent of people 12 and over.”
“I know we are not going to hit 100 percent, but if we could, we would have a very different future,” he added.
Covid-19 is not going to wipe out the human species, he said, adding that it was bad, but was not what he would refer to as “the one.”
“We’re really lucky it’s not,” Bischoff said. “But the one thing that this has shown us, is that when something serious comes up, as humanity, we are just not prepared to deal with it.”
And he said, it’ not just the U.S.
“There are a few countries that have dealt with this very well, but very few, and that’s a problem,” he said. “One of the things that many people in my line of work will take away from this is that if we don’t make things better, if something pops up that is closer to being ‘the one,’ we are in serious trouble.”
“What do I mean by ‘the one?’” He asked. “A high enough fatality rate, an easy enough spread rate that we have system collapse. We’ve bordered on that a few times. In India, there were people dying that didn’t need to die because they don’t have adequate health care.”
“That happened in a few places around our country,” he said. “If you had some serious health issue that wasn’t covid-19, you would wait in line at the hospital in an ambulance for up to two hours with medics trying to keep you alive in the back. That’s a system collapse. Then you can have systems failing on top of systems failing.”
“That’s not to downplay covid-19,” he added. “We’ve had over three million people on the planet die, and over 500,000 fatalities in the U.S.”
That’s deaths, he said, which does not include the long term covid effects that they are seeing.
“Because we are not going to reach 100 percent vaccination rate, covid-19 is the new reality for us,” Bischoff said. “What does that look like going forward? Nobody knows. More than likely there will be booster shots. It may become an annual thing, The more time covid-19 has to move freely around the population, the more variants we are going to get, so at some point we may get another breakout where no vaccine currently available will cover it.”
“Public health should not be a political issue,” Bischoff also wanted to point out. “That needs to stop.”
Wahkiakum Health and Human Services Director Chris Bischoff has been giving updates on covid-19 every Monday over the past year, and while he will continue to deal with the issue and others that pop up in Wahkiakum County, this week was to be his last regularly scheduled update on covid-19.