(BRANDON HANSEN/Chewelah Independent)
TRENDING DOWNWARD: NE Washington numbers appear to be dropping, but new metrics by state mean area now tied to much larger population and case numbers…
Last week brought some good news as COVID-19 case rates in Stevens County continue to tail off, but new changes in how the state of Washington plans to “reopen” the state brings more uncertainty to local communities and businesses.
The NE Washignton Health District said that they are engaging local leadership as much as possible to navigate the landscape of the Health Washington reopening plan, announced by Governor Jay Inslee.
“Our numbers were trending downwards with case counts per 100K and even at one point reached the low 200s for Stevens County, meanwhile Spokane is around 550 per 100K,” NE Tri County Health Administrator Matt Schanz said.
In last Friday’s media briefing, NE Washington Health District released case count numbers, showing that Stevens County had 311 cases per 100K, while Pend Oreille County had 577 cases per 100K and Ferry County had 180 cases per 100K.
This, for the most part, shows a downward trend for cases in the region, or at least a plateauing. Over the weekend, the health district reported 55 new cases in the region, bringing the total since the pandemic began to 2009.
Chewelah has seen 13 cases of the virus in the past two weeks, while Colville has seen 43 cases and Kettle Falls/Marcus has seen 29.
The Nine Mile Falls area has seen 29 cases in the past two weeks, and the Loon Lake area has seen 14 cases in that same time period.
Overall, NE Washington has seen 262 cases in past two weeks which brings the region’s case count total to 390 cases per 100K residents.
There have been 24 deaths since the start of the pandemic, with 18 of those coming from Stevens County.
On Monday, when Health Washington officially started, it allowed retail and personal services to be held at 25 percent capacity. Gyms and some indoor facilities were also allowed to reopen with diminished capacity.
Still, with the changes, NE Washington has to keep an eye on what is going on in the population center of Spokane.
Last week, the Lilac City area saw more than 1,800 new cases and 32 new deaths. Nearby North Idaho, which while not counted in the reopening metrics, does ship patients over to Spokane hospitals, saw 1,496 cases of COVID-19 last week, including 222 new cases being reported. Last week, 23 people had died from the virus and 94 residents had been hospitalized from North Idaho.
Spokane County saw its ICU bed capacity at 69 percent, which is good news considering the state requires a region to keep its ICU capacity below 90 percent in order to advance to the next reopening phase.
Vaccination efforts have been ongoing in NE Washington for the past three weeks. The priority has been for those in medical settings and those who are first responders who have volunteered to receive the vaccine. The process for this personnel has moved into the second “booster” dose and that will continue through next week.
Washington State has seen 522,550 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and has distributed 425,900 of those. Administering these doses is lagging behind as 110,225 doses have been administered.
The health district added that those medical workers or first responders who have yet to get a vaccine should contact the health district.
The district will now begin moving into other groups that are eligible for the vaccine. In January, Phase 1B1 for the vaccine will mean all people above 70 or people 50 years or older who live in multigeneral households are eligible. By February, high risk critical workers 50 years and older who work in congregate settings for agriculture, food processing, grocery stores, K-12 settings, childcare, corrections, prisons, jails, public transit and law enforcement are eligible.
By March, people 16 years or older with two or more underlying conditions that could make them vunerable to COVID-19 are eligible.
In April, those who are high-risk critical workers in certain congregate settings under 50 years old and people, staff and volunteers of all ages in congregate living settings will be eligible for the vaccine.
“Phone lines at local hospitals and clinics have been flooded with calls about how to receive the vaccination,” the health district said in a statement. “While this enthusiasm speaks well to our local citizens’ desire to use this effective tool to prevent illness, please hold off calling local hospitals and clinics until you fit the eligibility requirements for the next group to be vaccinated.”
While there is fear of new COVID-19 variants, scientists believe that the vaccines still work on these strains of the virus.
Washington has seen a 10 percent jump in weekly average of daily case numbers from the week before. On Sunday, 2,988 new cases were reported in a single day. Since the pandemic began, Washington has reported 271,595 cases and 3,698 deaths.
Washington ranks 40th in the country for deaths per 1 million and 47th for cases per 1 million.
Currently, the United States has about 129,223 people hospitalized because of COVID-19, whereas the total number of staffed hospital beds is over 924,000.
On Sunday, the nation reported 226,000 new cases of the virus in one day which is an 8.3 percent increase from the previous day. The COVID Tracking Project is reporting over 365,630 deaths from the virus.