Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

COVID-19 cases rising sharply

WALLA WALLA, COLUMBIA COUNTIES—According to COVID-19 data collected by the New York Times, at least one in six Walla Walla County residents has been infected with COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. The New York Times COVID tracking uses data from state, local and regional health agencies, and the U.S Department of Health and Human Services.

On Monday, January 10, Walla Walla County reported 253 new cases over the weekend, marking a total of 790 active cases in the area. The county experienced an 85% increase in daily cases compared to the day prior, and the area has been labeled as ‘extremely high risk’ for unvaccinated individuals.

Columbia County experienced a 50% increase in new daily cases on January 10, and at least one in nine county residents have been infected with the virus. The NYT updated the area’s status to “extremely high risk” for unvaccinated individuals. At least one in 399 residents have died from the virus.

As of January 11, Columbia County Public Health announced 33 active cases in the county. There have been ten COVID-19 deaths in the county since the beginning of the pandemic.

Columbia County Health System Chief Operating Officer Stephanie Carpenter said that the health system has seen an increase in emergency room visits recently due to COVID-19, amongst other reasons. There are currently nine beds filled, with referrals pending, according to Carpenter.

“Staffing continues to be a challenge across the board which has been an on-going concern not just here but state and nationwide,” Carpenter said. “However, we are seeing more Covid in the community. We also have more staff out because of Covid. Our employee health nurse Kimberly Lake has confirmed the following:

'This week we currently have seven employees who are out on quarantine or isolation either due to being positive for Covid or having been exposed to an immediate family member. None of these have been determined to be employee-to-employee transmission. I have approximately 13 others that are on symptom monitoring and repeat testing but have not been restricted from work.'"

Carpenter said that the health system is upping the personal protective equipment (PPE) for all patient-facing staff, following the recommendation and guidance received from the University of Washington.

Carpenter said that the hospital has been seeing 30 to 50 community members a day since the beginning of the year for COVID-19 tests. Columbia county Health System is currently working closely with Emergency Management to begin providing KN95 masks to the community.

All COVID-19 testing in Dayton is being conducted at the Columbia Family Clinic. Testing times are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, 8 a.m. - 3 p.m., and Wednesday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. To schedule a test, please call (509) 382-8994.

The omicron variant, which quickly became the dominant strain in the United States, has caused another surge in hospitalizations, with many of the area’s hospitals struggling to keep up with the demands.

Providence St. Mary Medical Center, in Walla Walla, had one ICU bed available, with six COVID-19 cases hospitalized.

St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Lewiston, Ida. has filled 97% of ICU capacity, with only 0.2 beds available.

Kadlec Medical Center in Richland was at 100% capacity on January 10.

Harborview Medical Center in Seattle is currently at 94% capacity, with 41 COVID-19 cases.

On December 27, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) discussed their decision to shorten quarantine and isolation times from ten days to just five days.

“The change is motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days before the onset of symptoms, and 2-3 days after,” a CDC press release stated.

Updated isolation guidelines for individuals who test positive for the virus now include a five-day isolation period, followed by five days of wearing a well-fitting mask to reduce the chance of spread.

If quarantine is not feasible, strict mask use is imperative whenever around other people. For all those exposed, best practice would also include a test for SARS-CoV-2 at day five after exposure. If symptoms occur, individuals should immediately quarantine until a negative test confirms symptoms are not attributable to COVID-19.

“The Omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society. CDC’s updated recommendations for isolation and quarantine balance what we know about the spread of the virus and the protection provided by vaccination and booster doses. These updates ensure people can safely continue their daily lives. Prevention is our best option: get vaccinated, get boosted, wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial and high community transmission, and take a test before you gather,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.


Reader Comments(0)