Two-week Incident Rate over 1000, more than 2000 for unvaccinated

Another county resident’s death blamed on COVID-19

Editorial Cartoon by Frank Shiers Jr

OKANOGAN – The number of new COVID-19 cases in North Central Washington is exploding, with Okanogan County having the highest 14-day Incident Rate in the region, according to Okanogan County Public Health’s Sept. 3 update.

The 14-day Incident Rate for new cases of COVID-19 in the county is 1131 in 100,000 of population, according to Public Health and 2081 in 100,000 for those who have not been vaccinated. The two-week Incident Rate for those who are vaccinated was 194.

There were 488 new cases reported in the past two weeks, with 44 new cases on Sept. 2 alone, according to the update. This brings the total number of positive cases reported in Okanogan County to 3,565. The total number of county residents who have died from the virus has increased by one to 41.

While being fully vaccinated helps to ease symptoms and avoid being hospitalized in nearly all cases, it doesn’t prevent people from contracting COVID. These infections are called breakthrough cases and there have been 85 breakthrough cases in the county since December 2020.

In Public Health’s cumulative totals for people testing positive, Omak has the highest with 865, up 50 since the Aug. 31’s 14-day update. The next highest is Brewster, with 822 (up 16); Tonasket, 415 (up 26); Okanogan, 361 (up 23); Oroville, 335 (up 25); Twisp, 128 (up 13); Pateros, 101 (up six); Nespelem, 100 (up three); Coulee Dam, 90 (up two); Malott, 81 (up four); Riverside, 78 (up one); Winthrop, 75 (up five); Elmer City, 30 (up nine); Carlton, 21; Loomis, 17 (up two); Conconully, 15 (up six); “unidentified,” 11 (up one); Methow, eight; Wauconda, seven (up one) and Mazama, five.

Of the 41 Okanogan County residents who have died from the virus, the highest number of fatalities were in Tonasket where 17 people have died. The next highest number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 is in Brewster, eight; followed by Omak, three and Pateros, two. The towns of Malott, Okanogan and Oroville have had one death each. eight deaths are listed as “unidentified.”

The greatest number of positive COVID-19 cases in the county continues to be in the 20-39 age group with 1,223 (up 60) and two deaths. The 40-59 age group has had 969 (up 42) and two deaths. Next is the 0-19 age group with 698 cases (up 51) and no fatalities. Those aged 60-79 have had 566 cases (up 32) and 15 deaths. Age 80 and above have had 107 cases (up five) and three fatalities. There were two cases and 19 deaths listed in the “unreleased” category.

Statewide

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) reported a total of 512,162 confirmed cases in the state as of 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 1. There have been 6,643 COVID-19 deaths in Washington.

Soon schools across Washington will be teeming with students and for some, the first time in more than a year. Supporting the effort to get students back into schools, and formulating plans to help keep our schools open, has been a priority for the state Department of Health they say.

This year, back-to-school occurs in the midst of a COVID-19 surge in all regions of the state. So, the strategy for a healthy return includes layered protections: encouraging vaccines for all eligible students, requiring staff to be vaccinated, near-universal masking, and regular COVID-19 testing at school.

Testing at schools is a crucial way to track and prevent disease spread, so DOH has partnered with the Health Commons Project to provide districts with end-to-end testing support, including a testing strategist to help develop the best strategy and tools.

Districts can choose from a menu of testing options at school via the Learn to Return (LTR) testing program. LTR offers testing options that make the most sense for each school, including screening testing that helps identify cases early to prevent potential outbreaks. “School-based COVID testing should help give parents peace of mind,” said Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH, Secretary of Health. “It’s part of a layered approach in our schools that will allow us to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Combining testing with broad vaccination, and then adding the four W’s of washing hands, wearing masks, watching distance, and using WA Notify is the best possible approach as we restart full-time, in-person learning.”

DOH worked primarily with Curative and Everlywell throughout 2020, but has expanded its partnerships to include Abbott, BD, CIC Health and Atlas to provide screening and diagnostic testing options for the coming school year.

The LTR testing program has expanded over the past several months. It now has about 300 Washington state school districts enrolled, including public, private, independent and tribal schools. LTR is voluntary and designed to be tailored to local needs; it also can offer staffing support when needed.

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