Clark County Public Health struggles to keep up amid influx of new COVID-19 cases

Healthcare providers are being asked to help new cases know who they need to inform

CLARK COUNTY — Clark County Public Health (CCPH) on Monday announced 314 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend, but that wasn’t the complete picture.

A fax line that some healthcare providers use to report positive test results malfunctioned over the weekend, meaning some tests weren’t included in the total. 

The department was working with those providers to get the data re-reported, and said any unreported numbers would be included in Tuesday’s data.

Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County public health officer and health director. File Photo
Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County public health officer and health director. File Photo

Active cases dipped slightly to 499, from 549 on Friday, though it was unclear if the reporting issue also affected those numbers. Active cases are people who are still within a 10-day window from symptom onset or a positive test.

Hospitalizations also remained high, though slightly lower than on Friday. As of Monday there were 65 confirmed and seven suspected cases in Clark County hospitals, making up 11.5 percent of the county’s 616 licensed hospital beds. That was down from 12.2 percent on Friday.

With more than 1,100 cases reported last week, Clark County Public Health said Monday that staff was struggling to keep up with the influx.

Last week, the department said their case investigators would still be reaching out to new cases, but rather than following up directly with close contacts, they would be asking anyone who tests positive to do their own close contact notifications.

Instead, CCPH would focus on potential exposures at “facilities of interest,” such as schools, food processors, long-term care facilities, and the county jail.

On Monday, CCPH said it was working to train staff previously doing contact notification to begin doing case investigations. 

In the meantime, they warned that individuals who test positive may not receive contact from the county in a timely fashion.

“We’re working with our local health care providers to ensure everyone who tests positive receives the appropriate information, even if Public Health is unable to reach them,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County Public Health director and county health officer. “The Public Health website also contains information for COVID-19 cases and their close contacts, as well as links to additional resources.”

Public Health has asked local health care providers to give everyone who tests positive for COVID-19 instructions for isolation and a handout for close contacts that details quarantine recommendations. All cases should isolate at home until they are no longer contagious and notify anyone they were in close contact with that they may have been exposed to COVID-19.

Public Health said they are also receiving a large volume of calls from the public with questions about the pandemic. While staff is working to respond to all questions, it may take longer than usual.

Information is also available from the following resources:

  • Clark County Public Health novel coronavirus website – Information about COVID-19 symptoms and testing, recommendations for preventing illnesses, guidance for cases and close contacts, and the latest local data.
  • Washington State Department of Health COVID-19 assistance hotline, 800.525.0127 – Available 6 am to 10 pm Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm weekends and holidays.
  • COVID-19 reopening guidance for businesses and workers website – Requirements for businesses and details about Gov. Inslee’s statewide restrictions.
  • Report a Safe Start Violation website – File a complaint about a business or organization not following masking or other Safe Start reopening requirements. Complaints are directed to the appropriate oversight agency for follow up.