Weekend COVID-19 numbers show possible signs of improvement

Longer waits for test results could also be playing a factor

CLARK COUNTY — Even as thousands of people headed out to Clark County’s lakes, rivers, and streams to cool off in triple-digit heat over the weekend, there are signs that the resurgence of COVID-19 may be slowing down.

Or maybe it’s just the testing.

A computer rendering of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Image courtesy Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
A computer rendering of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Image courtesy Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

Since Friday, 48 more people have tested positive for COVID-19, an average of 16 new cases per day, bringing the total number of confirmed cases since the outbreak began to 1,680.

The death count remained at 37, with no new fatalities reported since last weekend.

Another potential reason for optimism is in hospitalization rates, which reached their lowest level in at least two weeks. As of Monday morning there were 19 people hospitalized in Clark County with a confirmed case of COVID-19. Three other people were hospitalized with a suspected case, but still awaiting test results.

A total of 3.5 percent of the county’s available hospital beds were occupied by someone with a confirmed or suspected case, down from nearly 6 percent last week.

Clark County Public Health said on their Facebook page that they are hopeful the improved daily numbers are due to more usage of masks and physical distancing.

“However, we are starting to hear about slow lab turnaround times and difficulty getting supplies,” they added. “It’s too soon to tell what factors are at play.”

Last week, Clark County Public Health Officer Dr. Alan Melnick told the Board of Public Health that they are encouraging providers to use in-state and local labs for tests as much as possible.

“Some of the large national labs, the turnaround time is a week or more,” Melnick noted, “and it’s unacceptable to get tested and then have to wait a week to get test results.”

The time to get results for COVID-19 tests has grown due to nationwide demand as the outbreak surges across much of the country. Stock photo
The time to get results for COVID-19 tests has grown due to nationwide demand as the outbreak surges across much of the country. Stock photo

That longer wait also makes it more difficult for the county’s contact notification efforts, since the state requires that a new case be contacted within 24 hours. The longer test results take, the less accurate a newly confirmed case is likely to be in recalling where they’ve been, and who they may have exposed.

The most recent statewide data available as of this posting put the number of confirmed cases at nearly 51,000, with just under 1,500 deaths.

The Washington Department of Health noted that the number of daily new cases during most of July was well over 600, compared to around 250 per day at the end of April. 

On Friday, Gov. Jay Inslee announced an extension of his Safe Start Washington executive order, and an expanded order requiring face coverings in all shared spaces. To read more on those changes, click here.

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