Gov. Jay Inslee also unveiled a four-phased plan for reopening the state
CLARK COUNTY — Today, Gov. Jay Inslee announced that the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order is being extended until May 31, to slow the spread of the coronavirus causing COVID-19.
“Some people have argued that this threat is exaggerated. That the death rate doesn’t warrant a vigorous response,” the governor said at a press conference Friday. “To those people, I ask you to consider for one moment what it is like to lose a loved one to this viscous, and somewhat mysterious killer.”
As of Thursday, there have been 814 fatalities in Washington state blamed on COVID-19, with 14,327 confirmed cases.
The number of new cases, though, has fallen from around 400 per day in mid-March, to fewer than 200 per day now.
Still, the governor said, “we have not won the fight against this virus.”
Inslee outlined a four-phase plan to reopen the state’s economy, with at least three weeks in-between each phase.
The first phase would allow drive-in services for religious gatherings, with no more than one family per vehicle. It would also allow for some more businesses to start up, with safety measures in place, including auto sales, curbside pickup for retailers, car washes, and landscaping work.
“We are not wrestling over whether to lean toward the economy or public health,” the governor said. “They are one. They are mutually dependent.”
The move to each phase would be based on data, Inslee said, including case activity, testing capacity, the ability to trace contacts for confirmed cases, as well as the ability of hospitals to handle an influx of patients.
The governor also listed 10 counties with little-to-no COVID-19 cases that could apply to move ahead to the next phase sooner. That included Skamania County, but Clark and Cowlitz Counties were not on the list.
Starting next week, existing construction projects will be allowed to resume. Hunting, fishing, golfing, and outdoor recreation will also be allowed, although camping remains off-limits.
Hospitals, meanwhile, will be able to re-start some non-urgent surgeries and elective procedures, so long as they have an adequate supply of protective equipment to keep employees and patients safe.
Phase two, which could begin no sooner than early June, would allow for limited camping, and the resumption of new construction. Restaurants would be able to open for dine-in service, at half capacity, with no more than five people per table.
Under the third phase, groups of up to 50 people would be allowed. Restaurants could increase dine-in capacity to 75 percent, with gyms and theaters allowed to operate at half capacity. Nightclubs and other entertainment businesses, however, would remain closed.
The final phase would lift most restrictions, while keeping social distancing in place. Bars, restaurants, theaters, sports venues, and entertainment venues could return to full capacity, assuming they can implement proper social distancing protocols.
Clark County trending down
On Friday, Clark County Public Health said there were two more confirmed COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 361.
Twenty-one people have died from COVID-19 in the county, though there have been no new deaths since Monday.
“The numbers continue to increase, but it looks like the increase is flattening out,” said Clark County Public Health Officer Dr. Alan Melnick in a Zoom interview with Clark County Today. “It looks like emergency room visits are trending down as well as hospitalization.”
As of last week, 0.5 percent of both Emergency Department visits and hospital admissions involved someone with a Covid-like illness (CLI). That is down from nearly 3 percent in mid-March.
As of Friday there were 13 people hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19 cases in Clark County, with two in intensive care.
The Vancouver Clinic has teamed up with public health to test staff and residents at all adult care facilities in the county, especially following an outbreak at Highgate Senior Living in Hazel Dell. They had 26 confirmed cases; 18 in residents and six staff members. Seven of the county’s 21 fatalities came from the facility’s memory care unit.
Melnick says Highgate quickly informed residents and their family members after a staff member was confirmed to have a case of COVID-19 in early April. The State Department of Public Health, as well as Social and Health Services (DHS) have been to the facility to assist with infection control, but found no irregularities.
“Assisted living facilities, like Highgate, are more like homes,” Melnick said. “The home-like setting presents challenges around infection control. People socialize and they’re close with each other.”
Seventy of the county’s 361 confirmed cases have been in assisted living facilities, skilled nursing centers, or retirement homes.
Testing capacity has also increased. Melnick says Legacy Health is providing testing at their GoHealth Urgent Care clinics. PeaceHealth Southwest is also testing anyone admitted to the hospital.
“We’re also working with The Vancouver Clinic to begin testing symptomatic people who are unhoused or in shelters,” said Melnick. “And we’ve gotten a point of care testing machine for the jail, so they’ll be testing symptomatic inmates there.”
Melnick says they are working with providers to get a full count of the number of total tests performed in Clark County. The 4,268 listed on their website is an undercount, as it doesn’t include any of the rapid tests being performed by many providers.