‘A little more patience:’ Health officials urge caution as COVID cases surge

The 74 cases reported Friday was the highest daily total in over three months

CLARK COUNTY — Public Health officials are warning of a possible fourth COVID surge following a sharp increase in new cases over the past month.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID-19. Photo courtesy Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID-19. Photo courtesy Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

On Friday, Clark County Public Health reported 74 new cases of COVID-19, the highest single day increase since Jan. 29. That brings the weekly total to 317 cases, for an average of 45 per day. That’s up from 37 per day last week, 34 the week before, and 29 cases per day a month ago.

“The increasing virus activity should be a reminder to all of us that the pandemic is not over,” Dr. Alan Melnick, the Public Health officer for Clark County said in a press release on Friday. “It’s been a long year and we’re all experiencing pandemic fatigue, but we need to have a little more patience.”

Variants of the original SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID-19 have increasingly been located in Washington state and Clark County. While most of them are not known to cause more severe infections, several are thought to be considerably more easily spread.

To date, Clark County Public Health says there have been three confirmed cases of the UK variant here, as well as four cases of two strains out of California. Due to a lack of consistent genetic sequencing, it is believed the prevalence of those new strains is likely much higher in Washington than is currently known, and could be contributing to recent increases.

At this point, hospitalizations have not been tracking significantly higher, though CCPH reported a slight increase over Thursday with 20 confirmed and five suspected cases accounting for 4.3 percent of total bed space. That was up from 3.6 percent on Thursday, but in line with recent fluctuations.

Only one death had been reported this week, compared to five last week. Overall, the death rate from COVID-19 has continued to decline in recent weeks, though officials caution that hospitalizations have generally lagged cases by a week or two, with deaths rising a week after that.

With the Easter holiday this weekend and most people on Spring Break next week, Melnick urged caution, especially for people who have not yet been fully vaccinated.

“Until more people are able to get vaccinated and COVID-19 activity decreases, we all need to do our part to keep our community healthy and businesses open,” Melnick said.

As of this week, CCPH reported 13 percent of Clark County residents have received both doses of vaccine, while 23 percent had received at least the first dose.

That should include avoiding large crowds, gathering outdoors and keeping six feet of distance from people you don’t live with, and limiting indoor gatherings to 10 or fewer people.

Even people who have been vaccinated are encouraged to continue wearing facial coverings when in public or interacting with others, unless the people they’re interacting with are also fully vaccinated.

Public Health is urging people who plan to travel to get vaccinated beforehand, if they are eligible, and to get a viral test 1-3 days before the trip, as well as 3-5 days after returning home.

Clark County’s current rate of new COVID-19 cases reached 105 per 100,000 people this week, up from 88 two weeks ago. If it surpasses 200 per 100,000 people, schools would likely be required to step back plans to expand in-person learning, and the county may slip back to phase two of the Healthy Washington reopening plan outlined by Gov. Jay Inslee.

“Please take precautions to keep yourself, your loved ones and our community healthy,” Clark County Public Health said in a post on their Facebook page. “Now is not the time to relax preventive measures.”