Clark County’s public health officer sees signs of optimism, but urges vigilance
CLARK COUNTY — Clark County’s total of confirmed COVID-19 cases rose slightly on Wednesday, increasing to 190 since the outbreak began, an increase of five since Tuesday.
The list of fatalities remains at 13, with no new deaths reported.
The county currently has 21 people hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19 cases, eight of those in intensive care, an increase of one since yesterday. The number of negative tests remains at 1,616 and has not been updated since April 3.
“I think it’s too early to say that we’re in the down slope here,” said Clark County Public Health Officer Dr. Alan Melnick, while noting that modeling data put together by the University of Washington shows that the state likely hit its peak resource usage on April 2.
“This model is really based on maintaining the social distancing interventions that we’re doing right now,” says Melnick. “This is a contagious disease. If we let up on the social distancing measures we’re using right now, we could see an increase and this would change.”
A lack of broad testing has left health officials worried that the true impact of COVID-19 may be hard to calculate, and that a move away from existing mitigation measures could quickly shift momentum back towards the virus.
“I have some optimism based on the model,” says Melnick, “but we really need to be vigilant about this.”
Washington state had the nation’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 on Jan. 20, in a man who had recently returned from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak. The state quickly saw numbers increase, and implemented a series of steps intended to slow the spread of the virus.
On March 13, schools were closed. Followed 10 days later by a statewide Stay Home order issued by Gov. Jay Inslee, which has since been extended through May 4.
On March 25, all non-essential businesses in the state were closed. On Monday of this week, the closure of schools was extended at least through the end of this academic year.
Between now and the potential end of the lockdown measures, Melnick says he would like to see testing capacity increased greatly across the area, including tests that can check for antibodies in a recovered patient’s blood, in order to know if they were infected but recovered.
Melnick adds that too little is still being done for vulnerable populations, including the long-term care facilities, homeless, and people in prison.
Dr. Kathy Lofy, state health officer and chief science officer, said on Tuesday the state had been able to procure “tens of thousands” of testing kits.
“We are going to be deploying a lot of these test kits to our local health jurisdictions,” Lofy said, “to help with a lot of the testing that needs to happen within congregate care settings.”
Those would include retirement and nursing homes, homeless shelters, and healthcare facilities.
First responders in Clark County who have been exposed or may be experiencing symptoms should also now be able to use drive through testing sites through The Vancouver Clinic, PeaceHealth Southwest and Legacy. They will still need a provider referral to make use of the service.
With beautiful weather upon us, and temperatures in the 70s the next two days, officials are concerned that many people will flock to outdoor sites. Portland Parks and Recreation announced on Wednesday that they would be sending employees to many parks to remind people about the need for social distancing, and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown chided Portlanders on social media.
“Some parts of Oregon are doing better than others at staying home and practicing social distancing,” Brown tweeted. “To all our Portlanders: as tempting as it is to be out and about, please remember that our #1 priority right now is staying home and social distancing.”
Some parts of Oregon are doing better than others at staying home and practicing social distancing.— Governor Kate Brown (@OregonGovBrown) April 8, 2020
To all our Portlanders: as tempting as it is to be out and about, please remember that our #1 priority right now is staying home and social distancing.
Brown also followed Washington’s lead on Wednesday, shutting down schools for at least the remainder of the 2020 academic year.
“It is first and foremost to protect our kids and teachers,” Brown said at a press conference. “It is impossible to adhere to social distancing measures in our classrooms and schools.”