New weekly numbers published Wednesday by Lewis County Public Health & Social Services showed 193 new COVID-19 cases, eight new hospitalizations and no new deaths were reported Christmas week.
Also the week of Dec. 19-25, a high of 593 individuals were tested at the Lewis County Mall Discovery Health testing site, where a total 1,455 tests have been administered since opening Nov. 26.
The rate of infection in Lewis County this week saw a substantial jump, from 362 new cases per 100,000 residents over the previous two weeks to 425 cases per 100,000. There are currently five active outbreaks in congregate care facilities, the report said, which is the same amount reported the week prior.
No new deaths reported in this week’s report may indicate a natural backlog of deaths. If previous trends continue, next week’s report may show an inflated figure due to that backlog.
Vaccination rates in Lewis County remain stalled, according to Public Health numbers. About 48% of all residents are fully vaccinated.
COVID-19 cases statewide appear to be on the uptick, likely sparked by the more-infectious omicron variant. So far, deaths have remained on a downward trend while hospitalizations remain steady throughout Washington. Cases worldwide increased roughly 11% last week, the World Health Organization reported.
On Tuesday, the state Department of Health announced it would follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation of reducing the number of days of isolation during sickness, from 10 days to five days, followed by five days of wearing a mask around others. If symptoms continue after the five days of isolation and five days of masking, testing should be conducted until a negative result is returned.
New guidance for quarantine due to COVID-19 response has also been brought down. Fully vaccinated individuals should wear a mask for 10 days after exposure, and unvaccinated or lapsed individuals should quarantine for five days followed by strict mask use for another five days.
“It remains important for community members to know about changes to this guidance,” Secretary of Health Umair Shah said in a Tuesday statement. “The key remains recognizing we all have to work together to protect ourselves and those around us.”
This change has drawn some criticism from medical experts, though it was made due to new science that shows that the majority of new omicron transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the first and second day of onset symptoms and in the second and third day after. Therefore, the CDC recommends a shorter isolation of only five days.
“The omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society,” CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement. “CDC’s updated recommendations for isolation and quarantine balance what we know about the spread of the virus and the protection provided by vaccination and booster doses. These updates ensure people can safely continue their daily lives.”