As Washington Governor Jay Inslee prepares to celebrate the state’s reopening due to COVID-19 restrictions in a flag-raising ceremony on Thursday, July 1, the case numbers in Walla Walla County have since been up continued to rise last week.
Inslee will go on a “mini-tour” this week that will hoist a “Washington Ready” flag over the Seattle Space Needle the day after most restrictions to slow the pandemic are lifted, according to the Seattle Times story.
However, new case numbers do not disappear here.
On Monday, June 28, officials from the Walla Walla County Department of Community Health told commissioners in a weekly update that there was still evidence of the virus spreading to the community and that eight residents of the county and three residents of the Umatilla County as of now were hospitalized with COVID-19 this morning.
Providence St. Mary Medical Center has been at or near patient capacity for several weeks, said administrative director Nancy Wenzel.
This is not only due to the corona virus, but “these recordings have definitely increased,” said Wenzel.
The number of people with active disease cases was 210 on Saturday, 217 on Sunday and 201 on Monday. More than 90% of current cases affect unvaccinated residents, she noted.
While the medical officer Dr. Daniel Kaminsky told the commissioners last week that the cases at the time largely came from extracurricular activities at the school, the majority of those infected this week reported to health investigators that they are not sure how or where they got infected.
Walla Walla County is currently one of the country’s hotspots for the disease, according to the New York Times, which has kept an interactive map of COVID-19 numbers since the pandemic began. It has one of the highest case rates in the seven westernmost states, averaging 15 cases per day on a 14-day trend and 25 cases per day per 100,000 people, or one in 11 people, the data says.
In Washington, this ratio is comparable in Benton, Chelan, Whitman, and Douglas counties, while Yakima, Grant, Adams, and Franklin have higher cases per capita, as reported over the past seven days.
Walla Walla and Umatilla counties are listed as “very high risk” in the New York Times database, while Columbia County is listed as “high risk” for unvaccinated individuals based on cases and positive test results, the news agency reported.
For COVID-19-related deaths, Walla Walla County had one death per 907 population, Umatilla County one per 896 population, and Columbia County one per 664 population.
Health officials said the vaccine clinics scheduled for Tuesday June 29 and Wednesday June 30 will be merged into one clinic at Providence Southgate Medical Park on Thursday July 1 at 3:00 p.m. due to low registration numbers.
Information on vaccination clinics in Walla Walla can be found at ubne.ws/vaxclinics. Those without computer access can call 509-524-2647 and leave their name, date of birth, phone number, and a message.
- The total number of COVID-19 cases rose by 86 from 5,444 on June 22nd to 5,530 on Monday, June 28th.
- Active cases on Monday June 28, 201 total; 176 on June 21 and 134 on June 14. The current test positive rate is 3.5%. Seven residents were admitted to the hospital at 3:30 p.m. on Monday, June 28.
- The local death toll remained at 66, according to local officials, while state officials report 67 deaths.
- 59,401 COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered.
Umatilla County’s health director Joseph Fiumara said the county is about 50% vaccinated against COVID-19, according to federal data. On the face of it, such a number would offer “a decent level of immunity” if spread across the county’s population, Fiumara noted.
However, he suspects that in the same way that people view the COVID-19 pandemic, the case is more likely to be vaccinated and unvaccinated people to interact with like-minded people.
“We tend to interact in echo chambers, with people who think like us,” said Fiumara.
In the pockets of the unvaccinated population, Fiumara added: “We could still see serious outbreaks. I hope we don’t, but it is very possible.”
In such a case, Oregon would be unlikely to exercise its health authority and instead leave Umatilla County commissioners to put any restrictions in place, he said.
Fiumara said many pairs of eyes will be focused on the upcoming Pendleton Whiskey Music Fest next month. Although the number of visitors there was 50% capacity, it will still be the first major event in this area with around 12,000 cardholders.
The concert and related activities will be a great way to test the water, but should a future outbreak be traced back to the Whiskey Fest, the district committee could decide to restrict upcoming shows based on public health recommendations.
With a view to the Pendleton Round-Up in September – one of the largest events in the Pacific Northwest – health officer Dr. Jonathan Hitzman reminded the commissioners that potential attendees now have the option to protect themselves, either by full doses of vaccine or by wearing a mask.
In this case, COVID-19 is now more like the flu, Hitzman added.
“You wouldn’t close Round-Up because of a flu outbreak.”
- There were four new cases of the coronavirus on Monday June 28th. The total number of COVID-19 cases rose 36 from 8,608 to 8,644; There was one hospitalization and one discharge.
- The death toll remains at 87 people.
- 26,144 residents of the county have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, down 337 from 25,807 on June 21. In this latest number, 2,384 vaccinated people live in Milton-Freewater, which is up to 20% vaccinated in that city. In Athena, 470 or 33.8% of the population are vaccinated while in Weston 306 people or 24.4% have been vaccinated.
- 133 cases in total, up from 129 on June 22.
- The death toll is six.
- The vaccine doses remain unchanged at 3,179.
Information for Columbia County is obtained from the Washington State Department of Health.
- 194 new cases of COVID-19; 450,930 cases in total.
- 5,911 deaths in total – nine were reported on Monday June 28.
- 87 new cases of COVID-19; 208,222 cases in total.
- No new deaths; 2,763 in total.