The county had 166 new cases and four deaths reported on Tuesday
CLARK COUNTY — Public health officials are growing increasingly alarmed about COVID-19 activity across the state of Washington.
After averaging 96 new cases over the weekend, Clark County added another 166 positive tests on Tuesday, along with four deaths, the highest single-day tally since the start of the pandemic.
The most recent deaths were of a woman in her 70s with underlying health conditions, two men in their 70s, both with no underlying health conditions, and a man in his 80s with underlying health conditions.
Clark County has now seen 5,783 cases of COVID-19, along with 77 deaths blamed on the virus.
The county also saw its rate of new COVID cases jump from 131.42 per 100,000 people last week to 171.55 this week. For reference, a rate of 75 cases per 100,000 people over a two-week period is required before the public health department will recommend that school districts can open up for in-person classes above the kindergarten grade level.
Hospitalizations have also hit a new high in Clark County, with 45 confirmed and eight suspected cases, accounting for 8.4 percent of total licensed bed space. That remains below the 10 percent threshold set by the state Department of Health (DOH).
New data also casts doubt on claims that increased testing alone can explain the increase in new cases.
Clark County Public Health says 4,860 total tests were conducted during the week of Oct. 18-24, with 344 of those returning positive for COVID-19. That’s a test positivity rate of 7.08 percent, more than double the overall average positivity rate of 3.47 percent since the start of the pandemic.
During the week of Oct. 4-10, 7,022 tests were done, with 311 of them returning positive, for a rate of 4.43 percent. The following week, 307 of 5,453 tests were positive, for a 5.63 percent rate.
While people in the 20-29 age group continue to make up the majority of cases, older populations have seen an increase in recent weeks.
The 20-49 age demographic makes up 54.6 percent of overall cases in Clark County, but the 60 and up age range now makes up 18.4 percent of cases, and 92.2 percent of deaths.
During a press conference on Tuesday, Washington state Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy said COVID-19 cases are rising statewide, and in all age ranges.
“I am extremely concerned about what seems to be an accelerating trend in the spread of COVID-19,” Lofy said. “Immediate action is needed from all of us to avoid new restrictions and prevent our hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.”
Lofy warned that, while hospital admissions have largely remained within manageable levels, recent trends have been alarming and would likely continue to rise even if cases leveled off or declined in the immediate future.
“This situation is extraordinarily urgent, and we’re running out of time to change direction,” she said. “We need everyone in Washington state to take action now to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
The most recent statewide situation report estimates that the reproductive number for COVID-19 (how many people each patient will likely infect) has reached 1.29 in western Washington, and 1.36 in the eastern half of the state.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has announced a series of pauses for a number of counties there experiencing rises in COVID-19 cases. So far, Lofy said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee isn’t prepared to roll back reopenings.
“We look at this data every day, we talk about this every day, and the time will come when the time will come,” Lofy said on Tuesday. “We do not want to take further actions that will further hurt our economy, but unfortunately if we continue on this trajectory at some point we may need to.”
Health officials on Tuesday urged people to remain vigilant as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches and many families weigh whether or not to gather amidst the pandemic.
“We really hope that people can change their behaviors because, quite frankly, it’s our behaviors that determine the trajectory of disease,” said Lofy.
The Department of Health is recommending that people limit gatherings to no more than five people from outside of your immediate household. However, if you plan to have a gathering for the Thanksgiving holiday, the state recommends self isolating as much as possible for two weeks prior, in order to reduce the chances of a contagious person attending a party.
More tips for having a safer gathering, or alternatives to traditional celebrations can be found here.