COVID-19 deaths in Lewis County jumped from 51 to 55 this week, three new congregate care outbreaks have emerged and cases seem to be on the rise, increasing slightly over the last three weeks.
This week, 37 total confirmed cases were reported out by public health officials, compared to 33 the week prior and 29 before that.
In an update with county commissioners, Lewis County Public Health Director JP Anderson said the increases being seen in the state and nationwide are, to some extent, being mirrored locally.
“That said, I do feel like we’re continuing to go on track with our vaccine work,” he said.
Lewis County is currently below the state average in terms of new cases per 100,000, currently sitting at a rate of 98.1 compared to the state’s 151.7. Statewide, trend lines show cases swooping into a fourth wave. Cowlitz County — Lewis County’s southern neighbor, which shares the same health officer — is seeing a spike in cases that threatens to demote the county to Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s reopening plan, as reported by The Daily News.
Public health officials are still hoping that increased vaccine eligibility — and hopefully an increase in supply — will help stymie those increases. Next week, more than a million Washingtonians will become newly-eligible for a dose.
In terms of vaccination efforts, Lewis County has maintained its ground, and currently stands at 28th out of 39 counties, with 23.47% of residents having received at least one COVID-19 vaccine. The county fares worse in terms of residents fully vaccinated, standing at 13.62%.
And Lewis County is falling behind seven out of eight of its bordering counties.
Anderson is now hoping that, with the help of its regional incident management team, Lewis County will benefit from a walk-through clinic as soon as April 17.
The county is specifically eyeing the former Sears section of the Lewis County Mall. The hope is that a walk-through clinic will require less personnel to operate. And public health officials hope more providers can jump into the game, potentially offering the COVID-19 vaccine during regular checkups or other medical appointments.
“Currently one of the barriers for that is they want vaccines to be used immediately,” Anderson said, adding that he hopes that situation is in the cards in the future.
While logistical capacity was once more abundant than vaccine supply locally, the tables are turning, and Anderson expects that capacity will have to be bolstered to accommodate for more vaccines pouring into the state and county.
In total, Lewis County has reported 3,426 confirmed COVID-19 cases, the vast majority coming from the Centralia and Chehalis area. According to county data, the Winlock area has the third-highest case count at 240 since the beginning of the pandemic. Residents aged 20 to 29 are still overrepresented in positive cases, while those 80 or older represent the majority of deaths.