PACIFIC COUNTY — New cases of covid-19 last week more than doubled from the week prior, even as testing capacity remains a challenge on both ends of the county.

The Pacific County Health and Human Services Department reported 93 new cases of covid-19 as of Monday afternoon, up from the 41 new cases reported the Monday before. A total of 2,351 cases have been reported in the county as the pandemic enters its third year, and the local case rate per 100,000 people over the past two weeks soared to 601 as of Jan. 2, up nearly double from 346 a week earlier.

The county health department also reported one new hospitalization and one new death over the past week, bringing the toll to 128 and 40, respectively. The most recent person to pass away due to complications from covid-19 was in their 40s, county health director Katie Lindstrom said.

“We have had a significant increase in cases, unfortunately,” Lindstrom told the Observer. “We kind of were expecting it, but it’s definitely happening.”

Statewide, more than 10,600 people who got tested on Dec. 29 have tested positive for covid-19, more than double the pre-Omicron pandemic daily high of about 5,200 on Sept. 7 of last year. As of Jan. 2, at least 1,099 people in Washington are currently hospitalized with suspected or confirmed cases of covid-19, and 126 of those patients are on ventilators.

Help on the way

The sharp rise in local cases comes even as the county’s testing bandwidth remains low, although that looks to be changing soon.

Lindstrom said that Curative, a healthcare company that provides covid-19 testing, should begin offering testing as soon as this Friday in Long Beach. The plan, Lindstrom said, is for Curative to offer regular testing in Long Beach at Veterans Field on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and in Raymond at the Willapa Harbor Chamber Of Commerce Visitor’s Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

More information about the particulars of Curative’s testing operations are expected sometime this week, and Lindstrom expects that drive-thru testing will be offered. For the most up-to-date information on testing options in Pacific County, visit www.pacificcountycovid19.com/get-tested.

“Hopefully after Curative gets up and running we will be able to get out of the testing game. We can’t wait,” Lindstrom said. “And [Peninsula Pharmacies], I’m sure, is anxious to get out of it as well.”

Another positive local development, Lindstrom said, is that Aristo Healthcare Services, a healthcare staffing services company, is expected to provide weekend vaccination clinics every two or three weeks in the county. The company hosted vaccine clinics in the county a couple of weeks ago that went well, she added.

Lindstrom said that any of the covid-19 vaccines that have been authorized in the U.S. will be offered at Aristo’s vaccine clinics, including boosters and pediatric vaccines. Through a contribution from the state, the first 50 people who also receive their first or second vaccine dose at one of the clinics can also receive a $50 gift card.

In Pacific County, 61% of the total population has received at least one covid-19 vaccine dose, 54% have received two doses, and 21.4% have received a booster dose.

By having Curative fill in the testing gap that the county has experienced in recent months, and with Aristo hosting more frequent and regular vaccine clinics, Lindstrom said it should ease the burden on the health department, hospitals and pharmacies moving forward.

“The goal is between Curative doing the majority of testing and then Aristo doing the majority of our vaccine clinics, it will [take] pressure off our local providers,” Lindstrom said. “[The local providers] obviously are going to need to focus on the increased hospitalizations and care, and for my public health nurses they’ll be able to focus on contact tracing and case investigations.

“Even though it’s frustrating that we’re experiencing another surge in cases, I think we’re getting into a better place capacity-wise to deal with it and not have so much pressure falling on our very limited healthcare provider partners. Our providers are awesome, but they can only do so much.”

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