SOUTH BEND — Pacific County is seeing a reprieve in covid-19 cases at a critical time, as the county and the state as a whole entered Phase 3 of Washington’s reopening plan on Monday.

The Pacific County Health and Human Services Department reported a total of 21 new cases and zero new hospitalizations from March 8 to 21, low enough to keep the county in Phase 3 if the metric check from state health officials took place today.

To remain in Phase 3, smaller counties with a population of 50,000 or less must maintain a 14-day average of new cases at 30 or fewer, and have a new seven-day hospitalization average at three or fewer. If a county fails either or both of the two metrics, they will be moved down one phase of the reopening plan. Counties will be evaluated on an individual basis once every three weeks.

With higher capacity levels in restaurants and other indoor spaces now in effect, county health officials are warning that precautions such as mask-wearing and social distancing are more important than ever if the county wants to continue to enjoy the relaxed restrictions.

“It will take all of us working together to ensure that Pacific County can stay in Phase 3,” the department said in a March 21 news release.

The county’s total count sits at 822 cases since the pandemic began. With just five active cases, Pacific County’s case rate per 100,000 people over a two-week period stands at just 92.4, down sharply from 217.2 a week ago. Recent new cases, health officials say, are largely attributed to social gatherings. Coronavirus deaths in the county stood at 10 as of March 23.

Clatsop County reported 816 total cases as of March 23, an increase of 19 cases since March 16. Statewide confirmed covid-19 cases totaled 334,392 on March 22, with 20,154 patients hospitalized and 5,183 fatalities reported since the pandemic began.

CDC issues new school guidance

Last Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new recommendations that opened the doors for schools to provide in-person instruction to students more than just twice a week.

The updated guidance for K-12 schools now calls for all elementary, middle and high school students maintaining three feet of distance while in the classroom — less than the six feet the CDC had previously called for. The guidance is for all elementary schools that practice universal masking, and for middle schools and high schools that have universal masking and are located in communities where virus transmission isn’t high.

The CDC’s guidance continues to recommend six feet of distance between adults in school buildings, as well as between adults and students. Six feet of distance is also still called for in common areas, when masks can’t be worn (such as during lunch), in band, choir and gym classes, and in community settings outside of the classroom.

The CDC’s new recommendations must first be adopted by the Washington State Department of Health before they can go into effect in the state and in Pacific County schools.

Ocean Beach School District Superintendent Amy Huntley said the district is currently working to figure out how many students its schools can accommodate if the state Department of Health sign off on the new guidance — which Huntley expects they will. She said OBSD will start with its younger students and work its way up, but she was “pretty sure” that not every student would be able to be on-campus five days a week.

Also on the schools front, practices began last week for the traditional spring sports season, including baseball, softball, golf and track and field. Competition is set to begin this week, and a full schedule can be found at https://fishermenathletics.com/events.

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