PACIFIC COUNTY — New cases of covid-19 continued to fall in Pacific County over the past week, while a tweak in the state’s reopening plan almost ensures that the county is going to stay in Phase 3 moving forward.

Pacific County recorded 13 new cases in the past 14 days, with its overall count standing at 844 cases since the pandemic began. There were 11 active cases spread throughout the county as of March 29, and the current case rate per 100,000 people over a two-week period stands at just 60.1, down from 92.4 a week ago.

Cases going down aren’t the only piece of good news for the county’s hopes to stay in Phase 3. Updated metrics for Washington’s Roadmap to Recovery plan now call for the state’s smaller counties to record fewer than 100 cases over a 14-day period at the next metric check, which will take place on April 12. Hospitalizations must remain below three over a seven-day period.

“It’s going to make it easier for us to stay in Phase 3,” county health director Katie Lindstrom said, adding that the only time Pacific County recorded more than 100 cases in the span of just two weeks early last winter, when it wasn’t unusual for a couple dozen cases to be reported in a single day and the area was one of the hottest spots in the country.

With warmer spring weather starting to break through and more locals getting vaccinated on a daily basis, it seems unfathomable that the area will find itself in such a dire position again. But Lindstrom continued to stress vigilance and for people to take precautions, as cases are on the rise again in the U.S. with new variants emerging.

“It’s kind of a race. It’s a race to get vaccinated before the variants really come,” Lindstrom said, noting there’s been no confirmation that any variants — such as those from the United Kingdom, South Africa or Brazil — have been found in Pacific County.

Although the county isn’t able to do its own genome sequencing needed to identify variants, the Washington State Department of Health has begun to sequence some samples of confirmed covid-19 cases in the state. Samples of each of the confirmed covid-19 cases in Pacific County are sent to state labs, and Lindstrom said if a variant is spreading throughout the area, “we’d hear about it.

Clatsop County reported 834 total cases as of March 29, an increase of 18 cases since March 23. Statewide confirmed covid-19 cases totaled 339,761 on March 22, with 20,154 patients hospitalized and 5,183 fatalities reported since the pandemic began.

Inslee signs off on new schooling guidance

Last week, Gov. Jay Inslee announced at a news conference that the state is aligning itself with new federal guidance that should allow for more students to be in the classroom at the same time.

The updated guidance for K-12 schools says students in all grades need to maintain only three feet of distance while in the classroom, less than the six feet the CDC had previously called for. The new guidance is optional for Washington schools at the moment, but is expected to become mandatory by the summer.

“We think it’s time to get back to school. The kids deserve it,” Inslee said during the news conference. “We’re suffering a mental health crisis in our state, and it’s time to get them back in school.”

The guidance continues to recommend six feet of distance between adults in school buildings, as well as between adults and students. Additionally, six feet of space is still recommended for situations when masks can’t be worn, such as during lunch and in band, choir and gym classes.

Local health officials met with school officials on Monday, and are trying to work through the guidance and figure out how in-person instruction will be affected.

At the Ocean Beach School District, Superintendent Amy Huntley said the district plans to start applying the new recommendations with its youngest students, at Ocean Park Elementary, and go from there.

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