County total hits 309; mask mandate ending; WSD adapts its policies
March 10, 2022
With at home tests available, the actual number of covid-19 cases in Wahkiakum County is unclear, but the official count went up by one this week, bringing the cumulative number to 309, with six cases considered active.
The number of deaths attributed to covid in the county now stands at six, and there have been 25 reported hospitalizations.
There were five patients being treated for covid-19 at St. John Hospital in Longview on Tuesday.
The Washington State Department of Health (DOH)reports that 73.4 percent of the population age five and up in the state are fully vaccinated. Wahkiakum’s percentage is well behind in that same population, at 50.9 percent.
Percentages of people who are fully vaccinated by age group:
• 5-11 — 11.8 percent
• 12-17 — 32.8 percent
• 18-34 — 45.7 percent
• 35-49 — 56.4 percent
• 50-64 — 52.6 percent
• 65+ — 59.3 percent
Percentage of people who received a booster by age group:
• 0-34 NA
• 35-49 — 41.6 percent
• 50-64 — 52.4 percent
• 65+ — 62.5 percent
"On March 12 at 12:01 a.m., the general mask mandate in the state will be lifted,” Health and Human Services Director Chris Bischoff said. “There are still certain situations where masks will be required such as prisons/jails, healthcare settings, long-term care facilities, and hospitals.”
“For folks that are immunocompromised, unable to be vaccinated, or are trying to protect someone, masks will still be a good idea in public spaces,” he advised. “Individual business owners can choose to still have and enforce mandatory masking in their places of business.”
New guidance on masking for Washington schools was released by the Washington State Department of Health on Tuesday, in preparation for March 12. Wahkiakum School District Superintendent Brent Freeman notified staff and families of the changes, and asked for patience as the district learns about and incorporates the new guidance.
“The new guidance is similar to national CDC guidance, and comes at a time when we are seeing declines in covid-19 cases across our region, state, and nation,” the letter reads. “As we learn to live in a world with the virus and begin to resume some regular activities safely, the guidance includes both required covid-19 mitigation measures as well as suggested ones.”
The following are some of the key points from the letter.
The new guidance does not go into effect until March 12. Until then, the current guidance stands.
WSD will become mask optional. Students and staff will not be required to wear masks in class or on school buses. Anyone who wants to wear a mask may continue to do so.
“We must all be respectful of differences in individual choice when it comes to people using enhanced prevention measures like masking,” the letter reads.
The district will continue hand washing protocols as well as screening for fevers/temperatures each and every morning.
The vaccine requirement for educators remains in place, the letter says, but masks are not required for anyone regardless of whether or not they are vaccinated or have an accommodation.
Anyone with covid-19 symptoms must stay at home and away from others. They must get tested, regardless of whether they are vaccinated or not.
“To support a healthy community environment, we will continue to offer our covid antigen testing for anyone associated with the schools,” the letter said. “Testing is available every school day between 8:15-9:15 a.m. at the batting cages.”
Freeman said they are awaiting an updated flowchart from state DOH that will clarify the steps they should take when someone has symptoms or is exposed to covid-19.
Anyone who tests positive should continue to stay away from others for at least five days. People with symptoms may return to school on the sixth day, if symptoms have improved and their fever is resolved without medication.
However, a mask is strongly recommended for the person returning on day six through day 10. They can go without a mask if they test negative with an antigen test.
Anyone who does not want to get tested or wear a mask must continue to isolate for 10 full days.
“I understand that these changes will be met with anxiety by some and excitement by others,” Freeman wrote. “Please be respectful to one another as each individual decides what prevention and safety measures are right for their personal or family circumstances. Compassion will be critical as we safely modify mitigation measures that were put in place over the past two years. I will share more information with you as we receive it and as we update our school district practices to align with the new guidance.”