New cases don’t fit in with variance to go to Phase II
OKANOGAN – Okanogan County Public Health reported one new confirmed case of COVID-19 in their Monday, March 18 update, bringing the total of new cases up to 12 since their previous Monday report.
As of 5 p.m. on Monday, there were a total of 40 confirmed cases in Okanogan County, with two people having died and 29 recovering. There have been 1056 samples sent for testing and so far there have been 982 negative tests returned and 34 test results pending.
“Okanogan County Public Health is reporting one new case today. The new case is from the South County area,” said the health agency in their update.
South County’s new case (Pateros to Malott) brings the total confirmed cases there to 11. There have also been 11 cases on the Colville Reservation, 10 in Mid-County (Malott to Riverside), five in the Methow Valley and three in North County (Riverside to Oroville).
The Okanogan County Commissioners were hoping to get a variance on the state’s phased plan to lower restrictions on the Stay Home, Stay Healthy proclamation. Right now the state is in Phase 1, in order to petition for a variance and proceed to Phase II, which has even fewer restrictions, a county has to go three weeks without having a single confirmed new case of COVID-19.
The commissioners have written a letter to the citizens of Okanogan County, where they state, “As members of the Okanogan County Health Board of Directors, the Okanogan County Commissioners are working toward application to the state for a variance in order to get more businesses and activities open. The requirement that we not have a positive test results over the last three week period is one criteria that may be impossible to achieve.”
The go on to say that they are pressuring the Governor’s office to look closely at the impossibilities of the current requirement, while emphasizing their ability and commitment to open in a responsible and accountable fashion. For the full letter, see this week’s Letters to the Editor on page A4.
Monday’s update also included information on small business grants from supportokanogan.biz.
“Despite the recent Paycheck Protection Program and Small Business Administration loans and grants, many of our local businesses have not been able to access any of those funds. Those programs were almost entirely based around the number of employees a business had, was tied to them staying at work, and in many cases were completely inaccessible for many of our small, local businesses,” states the organization.
“But in working with the Washington State Emergency Grant program, we realized that a simple application, combined with a small group of local volunteers to score those applications, and a donation funding account from our local community, could create a local, self-funded and equitable way for us to help keep our communities alive, and help make sure we can thrive again soon,” they add.
To learn more, support the Okanogan County Small Business Emergency Grant, or apply for this funding, visit: https://supportokanogan.biz/.
Lastly, the update included a statement on misinformation that has been circulating about quarantine orders and facilities in Washington State from John Wiesman, Secretary of Health and Dr. Kathy Lofy, State Health Officer
“The Department of Health is aware of rumors and misinformation circulating about quarantine orders and specialized quarantine facilities.
“Public health officials regularly ask people who are sick with an infectious disease or may have been exposed to an infectious disease to stay at home and avoid contact with other people. This strategy has been used for decades to combat the spread of tuberculosis, measles, Ebola and SARS. Our experience during the COVID-19 pandemic and with other infectious diseases shows the vast majority of people we ask are willing to follow recommendations and isolate or quarantine themselves. Isolation and quarantine at home continues to be the best option and our recommendation for those who can do so safely. However, all of these actions are voluntary and confidential, despite the misinformation being spread by some.
We hope people will continue to protect their families and communities by following public health recommendations. We are striving to:
- provide timely and accurate information
- ensure access to services for those who need them to make staying at home possible
- provide a safe space for anyone who needs one
“The authority to involuntary isolate or quarantine an individual rests with local health officers. Each local health jurisdiction in Washington has plans and processes in place should involuntary isolation or quarantine be needed. This authority is rarely used as a last resort when someone is intentionally putting others at risk. We believe any facilities included in local health plans are most likely to be used by people who are willing to voluntarily isolate or quarantine but don’t have a safe place available to do so. Again, nearly everyone sick with COVID-19 or exposed to COVID-19 is willing to follow public health recommendations voluntarily. We greatly appreciate the willingness of people in Washington to protect others in their community.”
State Deptartment of Health Call Center 1-800-525-0127 Press # after the prompt
Education & Information www.doh.wa.gov/emergencies/coronavirus
Okanogan County Alerts Sign up for alerts like these from Emergency Management at: https://www.okanogandem.org.