The Thurston County Health Officer is recommending more students return to school as COVID-19 cases continue to fall.
Dr. Dimyana Abdelmalek announced late Friday that transmission rates in the county over the previous 14 days have fallen to 198.5 cases per 100,000 population. Two-hundred cases per 100,000 is the threshold for returning to high school.
"I recommend schools prepare for a cautious, phased in approach to in-person learning opportunities for high school students after middle school students have returned, and when this transmission level has sustained for an incubation period of the virus which is 14 days, which may be as early as March 1," Abdelmalek said in a letter to school superintendents on Friday.
Prior to Friday's announcement, some school districts already were set to add more grades to hybrid learning this week. North Thurston Public Schools is set to welcome grades 1-2 and Tumwater School District, grades 3-6.
Under the hybrid learning plan, students get two days of classroom-based learning and three days of online instruction.
Meanwhile, the county added 22 more COVID-19 cases on Sunday, giving it 147 cases for the week through Saturday. If the week's total, which will be known Monday, falls below 200 cases, it will be the lowest one-week total since 189 cases were reported the first week of November.
Sunday's cases increased the overall total to 6,817, according to Thurston County Public Health and Social Services.
Of those, 6,388 people have recovered or are recovering from the virus, 337 have been hospitalized at some point during their illness and 63 have died. No deaths have been reported in the past week. There are eight ongoing outbreaks at area congregate care centers.
IN THE REGION
— Pierce County reported 214 new cases Friday, bringing its totals to 34,548 cases and 429 deaths.
— As of Friday Grays Harbor County has added 24 cases of COVID-19 and one death since Wednesday, bringing its total to 3,200 confirmed and probable cases and 41 deaths.
— Lewis County Public Health & Social Services reported 10 new cases of COVID-19 Friday, bringing the county's total to 3,109. No additional deaths were reported. The death toll is at 42.
— Mason County reported four new COVID-19 cases Friday, bringing its total to 1,644 cases with 22 deaths.
— Pacific County has reported a total of 689 confirmed and probable cases with eight deaths.
IN THE STATE, NATION AND WORLD
The state Department of Health has reported 328,047 confirmed and probable cases and 4,675 deaths as of Saturday.
In the U.S., 27.6 million cases have been reported as of Sunday with more than 485,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Globally, more than 108 million cases have been reported and 2.39 million people have died as of Sunday, the data show.