ILWACO — In-person learning at Ilwaco High School has been suspended through this week, after “a number” of positive coronavirus cases were reported at the school last week.

Ocean Beach School District officials made the announcement last Thursday that IHS was going to revert to remote learning for this week. The decision came after OBSD consulted with the Pacific County Health and Human Services Department and Dr. Steven Krager, the county’s public health officer.

OBSD Superintendent Amy Huntley told the Observer last Thursday that temporarily halting in-person learning is the safest way to stop this most recent outbreak.

“There was a rapid rise in cases over the last seven days, and it’s predominantly been at the high school. We have so many close contacts out [of school] that it’s kind of hurting that educational viability, and we’re also getting to the point where it’s very hard to contact trace [as cases rise]. So that’s why, in this case, we took the action at the high school,” Huntley said.

Last Monday, the district announced that it was pausing its fall sports season for that week after it had seen an uptick in covid-19 cases in its athletic programs at both IHS and Hilltop Middle School. With the exception of cross country, the sports season was postponed at IHS for this week as well. Huntley said most of the cases at the high school have been seen in students, but that there have been some cases among staff that are tied to athletics — but none tied to classrooms.

Huntley said there have been cases at Hilltop as well, but that cases there were not rising swiftly and did not appear to be connected to in-person classroom instruction like they have been at IHS. She said there also does not seem to be much connection between the district’s various schools.

“We’re watching the middle school very, very closely, because we don’t want it to spike too, but at this point we’re not seeing the same level at the middle school,” Huntley said. “Cases are quite small at both elementary schools, and so we really aren’t having any spread in the school at the elementary level. The kids that have had covid have caught it from an outside source, not at school.”

Boosters beginLocal providers began providing booster shots of Pfizer’s covid-19 vaccine in earnest last week, with clinics being scheduled in north and south county in the coming days and weeks.

County health director Katie Lindstrom said that the peninsula is more of a focus for local booster efforts, considering Ocean Beach Hospital has been mostly offering Pfizer’s vaccine since it was authorized late last year. The booster doses are currently only being offered to people who received Pfizer for their initial two-dose vaccine series more than six months ago, as Moderna and Johnson & Johnson continue to go through the federal regulatory process to eventually offer their own booster doses.

Boosters are available for: people 65 and older; residents in long-term care facilities; people 18-64 with underlying medical conditions; and people 18-64 who are at increased risk of exposure because of their occupation, including first responders, education staff, grocery store workers and others.

OBH is hosting a Pfizer clinic for first, second and third doses at Ilwaco Timberland Library on Oct. 7. Appointments were still available as of Oct. 5, and can be made at tinyurl.com/6zvwunu4. The Ilwaco Pharmacy is hosting a booster-only Pfizer clinic at the Chinook School on Oct. 22, with appointments able to be made at www.covidvaccine360.com.

For a full list of upcoming vaccine clinics and more information about receiving a covid-19 booster dose, visit www.pacificcountycovid19.com.

OBH also announced that it is offering three free flu shot clinics this month in south county in lieu of its annual community health festival, which was canceled this year over covid-19 concerns. Clinics are scheduled for Oct. 8 at Ilwaco Timberland Library, Oct. 15 at OBH’s Ocean Park clinic, and Oct. 18 at its Naselle Clinic. Visit www.facebook.com/OBHospitalMC/ for more information about scheduling an appointment online.

Testing help comingWith local providers continuing to feel the strain of offering covid-19 testing amid what’s now a months-long wave of cases, Lindstrom said the county was able to secure help that should relieve some of the burden on hospitals and pharmacies.

Lindstrom told the Observer that Medical Teams International, a regional humanitarian aid agency, will be offering testing in both north and south county throughout the month of October. The non-profit will be offering free, no-appointment testing at the Port of Willapa Harbor in Raymond on Mondays from 12-4 p.m., and at the County Administrative Building on Sandridge Road in Long Beach from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesdays.

“We really want to encourage people to try to use that and not overwhelm the other health care providers,” Lindstrom said.

On a long-term basis, Lindstrom said the county has a “pretty promising lead” with a health care group that will be able to offer testing in the county 4-5 days a week, split between north and south county. This would be more of a permanent option, she said, while Medical Teams International is providing more of a band-aid as cases and demand for testing remain high.

As of Oct. 4, the case rate per 100,000 people over 14 days in the county is 693, the first time it’s been below 700 in about two months. There have been 1,903 cases reported since the pandemic began, up 65 from a week ago, with 102 hospitalizations, up four from a week ago. The death toll remained idle at 28.

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