What to Know About COVID-19 in Lewis County This Week

Progress: County Continues to Gain on State Average for Vaccine Distribution, Looks to Address ‘Vaccine Chasers’


Lewis County’s COVID-19 case rates continue to decline, with county data showing the lowest weekly caseload in several months at 29 cases. One outbreak in a congregate setting still lingers, but none have been recently added to the county’s 25 total congregate care outbreaks during the pandemic.

The county has seen a total of 3,340 positive cases since the start of the pandemic, and the death toll stands at 50.


Vaccination Rates

Meanwhile, Lewis County’s vaccination rate continues to climb. As of Wednesday, 19.13% of residents had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, compared to the state average of 24.16%. Of Washington’s 39 counties, Lewis County is currently in 29th place in that metric, according to Department of Health data.

This week, Public Health Director JP Anderson said the county had made significant progress, although “we’re still not where we want to be for vaccination rates.”

For elderly residents, getting linked up with a vaccine appointment is getting easier in some regards. Those calling into the county’s mobile vaccine clinic hotline — open to locals 65 and older — are now getting plugged in directly to appointments, rather than added to a waitlist.


Limiting Factors

Previously, vaccine supply was identified by public health officials as the limiting factor to Lewis County’s vaccination efforts. Now, as Anderson and state officials expect supply to dramatically increase in the next month, logistics and capacity could become the limiting factor.

“We don’t want to have capacity being the limiting factor,” Anderson told county commissioners this week. “It definitely hasn’t been up to this point.”

In preparation, the county is ramping up its vaccine partnerships. This week, commissioners approved an agreement with Providence to the tune of up to $2 million — funds expected to be reimbursed through Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) dollars.

A regional incident management team that Lewis County is now a part of may be “insider baseball,” Anderson said, but will greatly benefit the county’s vaccination efforts.

“Being connected with that workgroup and being able to access that additional planning support, operations support, logistics support, even down to helping us find people to provide vaccines should we get there, we’ll have that additional support through this mechanism,” he said.

Ultimately, Anderson added, the county’s vaccination rate “will be decided by how many people want the vaccine.”


Vaccine Chasers

Last week, the county worked to address individuals seeking leftover doses at vaccine clinics in the area.

Across the state, individuals struggling to get a vaccine — or those who aren’t yet eligible — have resorted to staking out outside clinics, waiting to see if extra doses become available.

Locally, Andy Caldwell — Lewis County’s mass vaccination team lead — said it was Facebook posts directing locals to show up at clinics. Now, providers in the county are working to reduce the amount of leftover doses they have each day. Once vials are opened by providers, the medicine has to be used in a certain timeframe.

“But the people who’ve received those extra vaccines — and again we’re trying to minimize those — they still need to be in the appropriate phases,” Caldwell said. “Our fear was we were going to have massive amounts of people show up at certain times because Facebook told them to.”