PENINSULA — Communities on the Long Beach Peninsula have seen their covid-19 caseloads decrease considerably over the past few weeks, but exposures on both ends of the peninsula in recent days have health officials on notice.

Last Saturday, the Pacific County Health and Human Services Department warned of confirmed covid-19 exposure at Wilson Field in Ocean Park during Rod Run festivities for the day before, Sept. 10, as well as potential exposure the day of the announcement, Sept. 11, county health director Katie Lindstrom said. On Monday, Ocean Beach School District Superintendent Amy Huntley confirmed a pair of coronavirus cases at Hilltop Middle School, which has forced the entire 7th grade class into remote learning for the rest of the week.

The circumstances that led to the Rod Run exposure are especially troubling. According to Lindstrom, the individual in question had attended Rod Run festivities at Wilson Field earlier in the day on Friday, checked into the hospital later that day because they were feeling ill, and tested positive for the virus while at the hospital.

The individual left the hospital that same day after testing positive. County health staff were unable to get in touch with the person after many attempted phone calls to conduct contact tracing, “and had reason to believe that they may have gone back to Rod Run the next day,” Lindstrom said.

“Based on the conversations we know [the individual] had, it was enough cause for concern to make sure people knew,” Lindstrom said. “We have a duty, and we have to report that when we know there’s a public health risk. That said, I think it’s also safe to assume that there were a lot of people at Rod Run who may be mildly symptomatic and have covid, just because it was such a large crowd of people.”

While it does help that Rod Run is an outdoors event, Lindstrom said attendees during those days of confirmed and potential exposure should monitor themselves for symptoms. People who are symptomatic should get tested, while those who are asymptomatic should wait at least five days for potential symptoms to arise before seeking testing so the county’s testing capacity is not stretched further than it already is.

Hilltop exposureCounty health officials have been concerned about potential covid-19 exposure at local schools since before the 2021-22 school year began, and those concerns are beginning to be borne out just two weeks into the year.

On Monday, OBSD Superintendent Amy Huntley confirmed that two Hilltop individuals have tested positive for the virus. While the positive cases would typically result in just a handful of students being sent home, Huntley said the circumstances of this situation meant that about two-thirds of the 7th grade class were close contacts of the infected individuals.

“Out of an excess of caution, and to provide the best instruction possible, we switched the 7th grade to remote learning the rest of the week,” Huntley said in an email. Vaccinated students and others who were not designated as close contacts do not need to quarantine or get tested, and can continue with their normal activities, she added.

Huntley said the district worked with the county health department to arrange a clinic to test all of the close contacts who would like to be tested for a return to the school campus next Monday. Details about the testing clinic will be sent to parents via email. The district, in an email to parents on Tuesday, said there was “no outbreak and there are no linked cases at the school,” and that changes were being made to minimize the school’s risk of having to send home so many students next time.

Just a couple of weeks into the school year, Lindstrom said that there have been coronavirus cases “in just about every school” in the county already. “Schools are working hard to contact trace those cases and get kids home who need to be home,” she said.

Case rate, deaths rise againWhile cases are down on the peninsula for the time being, the case rate in Pacific County has risen to a new height in the current wave of covid-19 cases, in what’s been a brutal past couple of months. The county’s case rate per 100,000 people over a two-week period sat at 933 as of Sept. 13, the highest it’s been since last November.

Recent cases continue to be concentrated in north county, as they have been for most of the pandemic. From Sept. 2-8, 75% of cases in the county were in people who list a north county address, with more than half of all cases being Raymond residents. Peninsula communities accounted for only 16% of all cases that week, and have accounted for just 28% of all Pacific County cases since the pandemic began.

The county also reported two more deaths due to covid-19 complications during its weekly data update last Wednesday over the week before, with the pandemic death toll rising to 22. One of the recent victims was an individual in their 40s, Lindstrom said.

Overall, 1,680 cases have been reported in Pacific County since the pandemic began as of Sept. 13, up by 81 from just five days ago. There have been 83 hospitalizations, up by five since Sept. 8, with individuals of all ages continuing to contract a severe illness from the Delta variant. Since mid-August, hospitalizations have been seen in one person aged 10-19, three people in their 20s, one person in their 30s, four people in their 40s, three people in their 50s, nine people in their 60s, two people in their 70s, one person in their 80s and two people in their 90s.

In the past month, 80% of Pacific County cases have been in people who were unvaccinated, Lindstrom said. The pace of vaccination in the county has continued along at a solid pace after an early-summer lull. From Sept. 6 through Sept. 11, 136 more county residents received their first vaccine dose, and the percent of the county’s total population receiving at least one vaccine dose increased from 53.4 to 54%.

For a list of upcoming vaccine clinics throughout Pacific County, visit www.pacificcountycovid19.com.

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