Nine COVID-19 Deaths Reported Last Week in Lewis County; Cases Continue Decline

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Nine new COVID-19 deaths were confirmed by Lewis County Public Health and Social Services last week, according to the department’s weekly COVID-19 report released Wednesday, while weekly caseloads continued a second week of decline.

Week over week, new cases fell about 16% Nov. 21 to Nov. 27 as Public Health reported 109 of them. The county saw a decrease in the number of hospitalizations with just 11 reported. There are still six active outbreaks in congregate care settings.

The week prior, no new deaths were reported. The spike in COVID-19 deaths this most recent week isn’t due to a backlog, Public Health Director JP Anderson said.

The transmission rate of COVID-19 in Lewis County also fell that week as Public Health reported 335.2 new cases per 100,000 people over a previous two-week span; the state’s rate this week stood at 220 cases per 100,000 people.

The hospitalization rate in Lewis County remains elevated and more than twice as high as the statewide rate.

This week, Anderson said the county planned on shuttering its K-12 testing facility at the Southwest Washington Fairgrounds in order to focus efforts on a new general public testing site at the Lewis County Mall, where they’re seeing “continued interest in testing.”

The new testing clinic, which began seeing patients last Friday, is open four days a week. An appointment can be made online at www.testdirectly.com/LC.

“Cases are down throughout the state as it appears the delta wave is continuing to recede. I do not expect more positives with more available testing necessarily,” Anderson said in a Wednesday text message. “The strategy is with more fast, accessible tests, we all have more information. More information is what empowers all other strategies and helps us limit exposures and stop the spread.” 

Though caseloads remain elevated statewide, the number of daily cases being reported by the state Department of Health is about half of its historic peak in mid September.

“Case counts and hospital admissions continue to show slight declines, but both remain at high levels in Washington state. Mortality is still very high, but there is a decreasing trend,” said Lacy Fehrenbach, deputy secretary for COVID-19 response at DOH.

“We want to note that changes in test-seeking behavior, both prior to and during the holiday weekend, will make interpretation of our data a little challenging over the next week or so, but we’re likely to see cases and hospitalizations continue to see a slow decrease over the coming week, and we are preparing that we might see some increase in cases in the days and weeks ahead following holiday related gatherings,” she continued.

Health officials in recent days have been clambering for details about mutations in the omicron COVID-19 variant, which has shuttered some international travel, and whether the new variant shows any sign of being more infectious.

Over the past six months or so, the infectious delta variant has resulted in historic virus transmission and death rates in Washington state.

Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah said panic isn’t warranted at the moment, though communities should be “doubling down” efforts, such as masking and social distancing.

“There’s around 50 mutations on the surface of this new virus that is not related to delta. It appears to be an evolution of a virus outside of delta, and the concern being not so much that it’s going to be more deadly — it doesn’t appear to be at this point — but it appears to be more infectious,” said state epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist, noting that another big question is how effective current vaccines may be on the variant.

Statewide, nearly 81% of people age 12 and older have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and about 74% of that population is fully vaccinated. Nearly 19% of children between the age of 5 and 11 have received the pediatric version of the vaccine.

Nearly 55% of eligible Lewis County residents age 12 and older have been fully vaccinated.