OKANOGAN – As the world waits for a final approval vaccine against the virus, the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 in Okanogan County has been increasing at an alarming rate.
There have been 90 new recorded cases of the virus in the past 14-days, from Nov. 5 to Nov. 18, bringing the county’s two-week incidence rate to 213 per 100,000 of population, according to Okanogan County Public Health’s COVID-19-Data report last Monday. That’s nearly four times higher than than the previous 14-day report of 53.8 per 100,000.
Over the three-day period, from Nov. 20 to Nov. 22, there were 30 new positive cases of the virus. With the most new cases reported in Omak, 13; Tonasket, nine; Oroville, four; Loomis, two and Nespelem and Brewster, one each. The number of all people who have tested positive in Okanogan since testing began last March is now 1,297, with 14 reported deaths.
According to Public Health, Brewster has a total of 627 people (up two) who have tested positive for the virus since testing began in the county. The next highest is Omak, with 221 (up 22); Tonasket, 99 (up 38); Oroville, 86 (up 22); Okanogan, 83; Pateros, 51; Nespelem, 36 (up one); Malott, 25; Coulee Dam, 19 (up four); Riverside, 11 (up one); Twisp 10 (up two); Winthrop, eight; “unidentified,” five; Elmer City, five; Loomis five (up two); Carlton, four and Mazama, one.
The Washington State Department of Health’s (DOH) data report for last Monday includes a backlog of cases. So, while they are reporting 6,277 new cases, that number represents roughly three days’ worth of cases.
“The message from health officials with the DOH has not changed: disease transmission is widespread throughout Washington state and we are at the highest risk we have been at throughout the entire pandemic,” said the agency in their latest report (as of press time). “Case counts, hospitalizations, and other metrics are all increasing at this time.”
DOH says Washingtonians need to wear their face coverings, watch their distance by staying at least six feet away from persons not living in their household and wash their hands. The agency urges people not to have friends and other family inside their home for social gatherings. Social gatherings of up to five people outside, distanced, and wearing a face covering at all times is a safer way to connect with others. Safest is through telephone or video chats.
“We are in a very dangerous time of this pandemic—health care workers, other essential workers, our elders, persons with chronic diseases, and our family and friends all need your help staying safe.”
The surge in cases and testing over the last week created a backlog in the DOH data systems as reported Saturday. That backlog has been cleared as of Monday. To ensure they are getting positive tests in a timely fashion, DOH worked with laboratories to delay their reporting to them of the negative test results. Therefore, DOH will not be reporting daily negative test or total tests data or percent positivity at least through Monday, Nov. 30. For the most current picture of recent trends, they recommend consulting the DOH dashboard’s epidemiologic curve tab.
“The epidemiologic curve tells the most crucial part of the story, which is that our disease transmission is skyrocketing,” says State Health Officer Kathy Lofy. “We have grave concerns about what will happen in the coming weeks if people gather at Thanksgiving, or any other time in the near future, and spread COVID-19 to their friends and loved ones.”
“COVID-19 activity is increasing throughout Washington state, leading to more cases, straining the testing sites and hospital capacity. It is more critical than ever for Washingtonians to actively help reduce the spread of this deadly virus,” says Secretary of Health John Wiesman. “Everyone should stay home as much as possible, and not congregate with people outside their immediate households, especially during the upcoming holiday. It’s important to wear face coverings when you do go out, and to seek testing if you develop symptoms or if you’ve been exposed to someone who has, or is suspected to have, COVID-19.”