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By Beka Compton
The Times 

Alarming rise in COVID-19 cases in Columbia County


August 5, 2021

DAYTON—COVID-19 cases have risen sharply over the last couple of weeks in Columbia County. On Tuesday, August 3, there were 27 active cases.

“We have been very fortunate over the past few months,” Columbia County Public Health Administrator Martha Lanman said Friday. “But the cases have risen significantly over the past week here. I want everyone to be aware and cautious.”

Lanman encouraged people to get tested if they feel sick, especially if they are displaying symptoms of COVID-19. Common symptoms include fever and chills, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle or body aches, loss of taste or smell, congestion, and nausea or gastrointestinal issues.

According to Lanman, most of the new COVID-19 cases in Columbia County are not related; the county is experiencing a high level of community spread.

In recent weeks, the Delta variant has made national headlines, quickly becoming the dominant strain of the virus. According to information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the variant was first discovered in the United States in December of 2020 and accounted for more than 80% of American COVID-19 cases by the end of July.

“The new Delta variant is much more infectious than the previous COVID-19 virus,” said Dr. Lewis Neace, Columbia County Health Officer. “That’s part of the problem. The vaccine does work for it; yes, there are some breakthrough cases. The fortunate thing is that vaccinated people tend not to be nearly as sick. There is protection from the vaccine- it does work.”

At a Columbia County Commissioner Meeting on August 2, Dr. Neace and Lanman both voiced concerns about a strong and active anti-COVID-19 vaccination presence within the county hindering progress. According to the Washington State Department of Health, 1,282, or just 32%, of Columbia County residents are fully vaccinated as of August 2. Columbia County has a population of 3,992.

“I’d like us to be more cautious,” Lanman said. “We have school starting in three weeks, I’d really like to get the case count down before then. We pulled together, last year, for our kids, our schools, and our community.”

“I fear for the vulnerable, who are immunocompromised and cannot get vaccinated,” said Neace.

Lanman encourages residents to wear a face mask if you are in a group of people outside of your household, and practice physical distancing.

The Columbia County Health System (CCHS) is prioritizing its testing to patients who are symptomatic or under certain contact tracing instances due to limited resources and testing supplies. COVID-19 testing is available at the hospital Monday- Friday, 8 a.m-12 p.m. Appointments are necessary to ensure that the hospital can be prepared with appropriate supplies. Testing times and availability may vary based on community needs, according to Shane McGuire, Columbia County Health System Chief Executive Officer.

The hospital has played a unique part in the COVID-19 pandemic, offering regional support to larger hospitals in the area. CCHS does not have facilities for handling COVID-19 patients, so it admits lower acuity patients, including patients undergoing rehabilitation treatments from other hospitals who have that capacity. By doing so, Columbia County Hospital frees up beds in other medical facilities to handle the rising number of patients with COVID-19.

McGuire shared that the hospital is currently at full capacity. Before going to a hospital for emergency COVID-19 care, call your healthcare provider or your local hospital to get further information about where you should go.

As the COVID-19 virus moves through this new wave, hospitals across Washington are quickly filling up with patients. As recommended at the onset of the pandemic, it is again critical to slow the spread of the virus by wearing masks, socially distancing, and getting vaccinated..


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