PACIFIC COUNTY — No news is usually good news when it comes to covid-19, and the last several weeks in Pacific County have given credence to the saying.

The county health department reported just seven new cases of the virus over the past week, bringing the total case count in Pacific County to 736 cases since the pandemic began.

Those seven cases are the only active cases in the county, and the case rate per 100,000 people over a two-week period sat at 64.7 as of Feb. 22 — down from 101.7 a week ago and 198.7 two weeks ago. The case rate in Pacific County is now back firmly to where it was throughout summer and early fall last year, prior to a surge in cases that began in November.

According to weekly zip code data disclosed by the health department on Feb. 17, a solid majority of new cases continues to consist of people residing in north county. A combined 17 new cases were attributed to people with a Raymond or South Bend address over the previous two weeks, bringing their total count to 336 and 171 cases, respectively. Chinook was the only other community to be attributed more than one new case, as its total went from 10 to 12.

Wahkiakum County’s total case count sat at 96 as of Feb. 22, with 15 cases currently active. Clatsop County reported 768 total cases as of Feb. 17, an increase of just five cases since Feb. 8. Statewide confirmed covid-19 cases totaled 317,223 on Feb.7, with 19,110 patients hospitalized and 4,857 fatalities reported since the pandemic began.

Washington state continues to be one of the best performing states when it comes to case counts and hospitalizations. According to the Covid-19 Tracking Project, Washington’s average daily new covid-19 cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days is 11, about half of the national average of 20 and better than all but four states. Covid-related hospitalizations in the state are currently 82 per 1 million people, far below the national average of 171 and better than all but 14 states.

PPP rule changes benefit smallest businesses

New changes to the Payroll Protection Program announced earlier this week are intended to benefit very small businesses.

The Biden Administration announced on Feb. 22 that starting this Wednesday, businesses with fewer than 20 employees will be the benefactors of an exclusive two-week period to apply for a forgivable PPP loan. Businesses with more than 20 employees will not be permitted to apply during this time.

The move is intended to allow smaller businesses a better opportunity to receive financial assistance. While the initial round of PPP last year was heralded as providing critical assistance to businesses affected by covid-19 and pandemic-related restrictions, it was also criticized for allowing large businesses and corporations to receive some of the biggest loans.

New eligibility changes are also coming early next month, allowing self-employed, independent contractors and sole proprietors to qualify for more money. These groups were either previously disallowed from receiving a PPP loan or received very small sums, since the loan amounts were based on the number of employees a business had.

PPP loans will also be available for small business owners with felonies not related to fraud, those who are delinquent on federal student loans, and certain non-citizen residents, such as those with Green Cards or are living in the country on a visa. These business owners were previously excluded from receiving a loan from the program.

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