PACIFIC COUNTY — Public health nurses are monitoring 15 active community cases of covid-19 while the total number of cases in the county rose to 44 on Monday, Aug. 3.

It was a notable week for covid-19 in Pacific County. The Public Health and Human Services Department announced the death of a resident from the virus; an unrelated infant in the community was diagnosed with the disease; and visitors to the Ocean Park chapters of the Loyal Order of the Moose and the Fraternal Order of the Eagles were warned they may have been exposed to the virus.

The total case count rose by 14 between Monday, July 27 and Monday, Aug. 3, an average of two cases per day. The case count will likely continue to rise, as Public Health Officer Dr. Steven Krager said the county hasn’t hit its peak yet, according to Stephanie Michael, health manager for the county health department. The four newest cases involve people living in South Pacific County. All are close contacts of people previously diagnosed with the virus.

July brought covid-19

In July, the county identified 22 new cases. Michael noted cases began to spike about two weeks after the Fourth of July, but said she couldn’t say for certain the increase in cases was linked to holiday tourism.

“I know people have gotten sick without leaving the county,” Michael said.

Of the 15 cases being monitored by public health nurses, 13 are confirmed through lab testing and two are presumed positive while the county waits on results. Many of the new cases are linked to social gatherings, she said. For that reason, people are urged to keep social circles small and avoid gathering in groups, especially when indoors without a facial covering, Michael said.

Statewide, the case count stood at 58,715 at the end of the day Aug. 3, and 1,600 Washingtonians have died of the disease. Slightly more than 1 million tests have been performed, with 5.8% coming back positive. In Pacific County the test count was 1,524 on Aug. 3, with a positivity rate of 2.6%.

Social club exposures

The choice to put out an announcement about a possible exposure at the social clubs came after a person diagnosed with covid-19 spent an extended period of time there while possibly contagious, Michael said.

Both facilities allowed visitors to choose whether to provide information for contact tracing. Because of that, the health department was concerned the information provided might not capture all possible close contacts of the diagnosed person.

Community spread

It is safe for community members to assume there are people with the virus in the community who are asymptomatic, Michael said. About 25% to 40% of people infected with the coronavirus have no symptoms, she said. The safest place to be is home, Michael said. Barring that, stay far apart and wear a face covering.

“Every person matters,” Michael said.

The county hasn’t hit its case peak yet, which will be when a decrease in new cases will be seen, Michael said. Caring about the community means taking precautions.

Since the county was able to delay the virus’ arrival in the community, contact tracing systems and testing is in place. But resources for the county are thin and one bad outbreak could max out the county’s systems.

“I’m confident in our ability right now,” Michael said. “What keeps me up at night is an explosion of cases in a congregate-living setting, which would slow our response.” Local examples of congregate-living facilities could include assisted-living and nursing homes, and places like Naselle Youth Camp where unrelated people live in relatively close contact.

A slow response could lead to a domino effect if the county wasn’t able to quickly identify and isolate people with the virus.

Sewage test

A June 22 test performed to see whether Long Beach residents and visitors were shedding coronavirus found none present. This result means three sets of back-to-back tests in May and June were negative, before samples taken on July 5 at the conclusion of the busy holiday weekend arrived at an estimate of 30 covid-19 infections in the city.

Follow-up testing on July 19 estimated 85 infected people had used the Long Beach wastewater system, according to an analysis by Massachusetts-based company Biobot Analytics, Inc.

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