COVID-19 cases by zip code, updated Sept. 3. (Courtesy Grays Harbor County Public Health)

COVID-19 cases by zip code, updated Sept. 3. (Courtesy Grays Harbor County Public Health)

349 new cases, five new COVID deaths as fifth wave washes through county

The fifth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to pound Grays Harbor County.

In the week between Aug. 26 and Sept. 1, 349 new cases were reported in the county, according to public health. These included 310 confirmed cases and 39 probable.

Hospitalizations have bloated to 324 for the duration of the pandemic, with 24 reported in just the last week. The county now has broken the 90-death mark for the pandemic, with five this week driving the total to 92.

Compare that to the week before, when the surge was in its third week, when there were 261 new cases reported, 212 confirmed, 10 new hospitalizations, and two new deaths.

“Cases are continuing to rise at a dramatic rate which impacts testing, local hospitals, case investigations,” said Nikki Gwin, Grays Harbor County Public Health spokeswoman. “We’re particularly interested in and concerned by trends in hospitalizations.”

New cases are showing up in high numbers throughout the county. Since Aug. 6, the Aberdeen ZIP code has had 300 new confirmed COVID cases reported; in Hoquiam, there have been 156. In the East County, Montesano’s ZIP code has had an increase of 63 cases during that time, Elma’s 107. At the beaches, the total pandemic COVID-19 case count in the Ocean Shores ZIP code rose by 45 between Aug. 6 and Sept. 3, Westport by just 16.

“With school returning to in-person learning, we want to reiterate how important it is to support that effort by making the community as safe as we can for kids by getting vaccinated, and masking up when appropriate,” said Gwin.

The most current vaccination data shows that among Grays Harbor County’s total population, just 52.2% has initiated vaccination, and 46.5% is fully vaccinated. The rates for the population 12 and older and 16 and older are similar, about 60-62% has initiated vaccination and 53-55% is fully vaccinated. Statewide, 55% of the total population is vaccinated, and nearly 65% of the population age 12 and older is fully vaccinated.

Vaccine demand has risen and public health is adding an additional vaccination day to its own clinics schedule.

“Recently we have seen enough of an increase in demand for our in-house vaccine clinics that we are escalating to three days per week of operation from the previous two,” said Gwin.

“This change will begin the week of Sept. 6. According to the state’s data dashboard, Grays Harbor County as a whole administered 1,000 new doses of COVID-19 vaccine in the last reporting week, a larger increase than we had been seeing in recent weeks. We’re encouraged by this uptick and hope that we continue to see more folks make the decision to vaccinate to protect themselves and our entire community.”

The call center is being hammered with a high volume of calls, many asking about boosters and testing.

“Our COVID-19 Resource Center has seen a dramatic increase in call volume in the past weeks, averaging around 2,000 calls per five days. Unsurprisingly, most of these calls relate to testing, and booster COVID-19 vaccinations,” said Gwin. “The Curative kiosk located in our parking lot continues to offer free testing, they ask that appointments are scheduled at curative.com.”

Gwin continued, “As far as booster vaccines go, current guidelines indicate that the general public would be eligible to receive a booster dose eight months after their second dose of MRNA vaccine, not everyone will be eligible at once.”

She said booster doses have not yet approved for administration, standing orders are pending, and more information will be forthcoming when available.