Stevens County case rate for coronavirus continues to drop

Stevens County case rate for coronavirus continues to drop

(BRANDON HANSEN/Chewelah Independent)

STEVENS COUNTY ALSO SEES SECOND VIRUS-RELATED DEATH: Washington state continues to see good COVID-19 data but fall flu looms…

The news continues to be position for the COVID-19 situation in both NE Washington and the state as a whole. Still, health officials are being cautious about these current trends due to the uptick in cases Labor Day gatherings and the fall flu season could bring.

In their Friday media briefing, NE Tri-County Health showed that case counts are continuing to drop in all three counties. Stevens County now has just 16 cases per 100K people, meaning that it has a low enough case count for in-person learning to occur in schools. However, this rate must be sustainable, meaning that before the health district recommends students return to school, they need to see three virus incubation periods or 40 days with a rate under 25 per 100K people.

NE Tri-County Health District Administrator Matt Schanz said there are other metrics too that the district has to watch, including how prepared both the school districts and health district are for contact tracing and how much strain is on healthcare facilities. Another issue is how much testing is going on in the NE Washington area.

Testing has been continuously going down with Ferry County administering just 4.4 tests per day, Pend Oreille County performing 10.9 tests and Stevens County issuing 36.1 COVID-19 tests per day.

“It’s very important that people with symptoms to get tested,” Schanz said.

Low testing numbers mean an incomplete picture of what the virus is doing in our community and makes it harder for that virus to be contained.

Schanz also announced the second death from COVID-19 in Stevens County. The first death from the virus occurred months ago.

“It definitely brings it closer to home,” Schanz said. “It shows you have to continue to have precautions and not let your guard down.”

The district again is recommending no social gatherings over five people from different households, along with mask wearing and social distancing. When it comes to schools, Schanz said the district is meeting with superintendents and conversing with them weekly to talk about the virus situation. He added the the district is really monitoring the first two weeks of September and they think that will give them a better indication of which direction the area is headed.

“Most definitely we don’t want to be bouncing back and forth with schools,” Schanz said. “We need to make sure before our recommendation and September is going to be telling.”

Case rates in Ferry County are 51 per 100K people and Pend Oreille is 30 cases per 100K. While above the 25 per 100K threshhold, current trends show they could drop below that number in the near future.

One issue looming in the future is the fall and winter. Colder tempretures mean people will be inside more, where it is easier to spread the virus. The outside dining and other services that could be carried out outside, will now become more difficult. It will also be flu and cold season. Since the flu and cold share many COVID-19 symptoms, it could be hard to differentiate between the two. This will result in more quarantining and self isolation for people who many not even have COVID-19. Typically when people could just work through their sicknesses, they will now be asked to stay home in case they are spreading COVID-19.

Getting tests returned in a timely matter has also been an issue and even if a person is negative, you could end up waiting for several days.

Symptoms include fever, tiredness, aches and pains, sore throat, diarhea, conjunctivitis, headache, loss of taste or smell, rash or discoloration of skin, chest pain or pressure and loss of speech or movement.

“If you do have some of these symptoms, don’t delay on contacting your healthcare provider,” Schanz said. “Likewise if you’re a close contact to someone who tested positive, we recommend you are tested as well.”

When health district officials were asked about the COVID-19 death toll nationally and the Facebook post that only a few thousand people had the virus as the sole reason of death listed on their death certificate, they explained how viruses work and how typically something like the coronavirus make an existing condition worse.

“Even with the flu, comorbid conditions can be issues,” NE Tri County Health Health Officer Samuel Artzis said.

As has been reported since nearly the beginning of the pandemic, people who are obese, have heart issues or breathing issues are more likely to die or become very ill from the coronavirus. What the virus does is tax the body even more and make pre-existing conditions even worse. This can lead to heart failure, stroke, kidney failure or fluid in the lungs.

“How this bug works is really nasty,” Artzis said. “It has been not to cause clots in your blood and can do a number on your internal organs.”

The virus can get into your lungs and cause pnemonia, or trigger a cytokine storm with your body’s immune system. What happens in a cytokine storm is your immune system releases pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines in large numbers which can cause multi-system oregon failure.

While its true that a large majority of people may see no symptoms or mild ones, but for people with pre-existing conditions, it can be a big issue.

“Somebody with underlying health conditions catches the virus and the virus makes that condition worse and those conditions could cause that person to die,” Artzis said. “Hence the virus caused the death of that person.”

According to the COVID-19 Tracking Project, which manually compiles numbers with information from state and territorial health districts, there has be 181,328 Americans who have died from COVID-19. There have been 6.2 million positive cases and 82 million tests taken. There are over 32,000 Americans currently hospitalized from the virus, 6,600 in an ICU and over 1,800 on ventelators. The seven-day average for deaths is approximately 832 people dying a day.

According to Reuters, coronavirus cases were rising in 22 states heading into Labor Day weekend. South Dakota saw a 126 percent increase with 3,700 new cases. Health officials said some of the cases came from the Sturgis motorcycle festival in August.

In Washington, there has been over 77,000 cases of COVID-19 and a total of 1,953 deaths.

The state currently has 277 people hospitalized because of the virus.

A total of 1.5 million tests have been taken in the state.