DAN HAMMOCK | THE DAILY WORLD 
The Curative COVID-19 testing kiosk at the Pearsall Building in Aberdeen tested more than 100 people Monday, a pretty typical day since the fifth wave of the pandemic cranked up in September. Testing is free, go to curative.com to schedule a test, the kiosk is open 7 a.m. to noon weekdays.

DAN HAMMOCK | THE DAILY WORLD The Curative COVID-19 testing kiosk at the Pearsall Building in Aberdeen tested more than 100 people Monday, a pretty typical day since the fifth wave of the pandemic cranked up in September. Testing is free, go to curative.com to schedule a test, the kiosk is open 7 a.m. to noon weekdays.

New COVID cases decline, hospitalizations remain high

Cases of COVID-19 dropped significantly in Grays Harbor County in the latest reporting period, but only to levels similar to those seen in most of September.

A total of 339 new cases were documented in the week of Sept. 30 through Oct. 6.

Cases were down by more than 150 from the previous week, but are still on par with the number of cases seen weekly since early September, when 300-400 cases were seen weekly and public health officials reported days with more than 100 cases each.

There were three new COVID-related deaths reported in the county the week of Sept. 30-Oct. 6, bringing the total to 112. Hospitalizations remain high, 17 for the week, and continue to put a strain on the county’s emergency services and hospital personnel.

On the plus side, public health officials report that half of the county’s population is now fully vaccinated.

“After months of a Herculean team effort amongst many local providers, Grays Harbor’s total population is officially 50% fully vaccinated against COVID-19,” said Nikki Gwin, Public Health community health worker. “This is an important milestone, but there is still much work to be done.”

Grays Harbor County continues to lag significantly in terms of vaccinations when compared to state numbers, which report more than 58% of the state population as fully vaccinated.

“As we continue to offer vaccinations at our own in-house clinics, we’ve seen an increase in demand, including for booster vaccines,” said Gwin. “In light of this, beginning Monday Oct. 11, we will require preregistration for appointments to ensure that our clinic staff can function efficiently and safely.”

Anyone seeking a first dose can book their appointment for a public health clinic at healthygh.org. Anyone seeking second, third, or booster doses needs to call 360-964-1850 for scheduling so staff can prepare. There are many other providers in Grays Harbor offering COVID-19 vaccinations, including boosters; find one at vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov.

The fifth wave continues to take its toll on everyone fighting the pandemic.

“Public Health staff, Emergency Management, local hospitals and other health care providers, EMS, schools, etc., are all continuing to feel incredible and unsustainable strain,” she said.

Grays Harbor County Public Health Officer Dr. John Bausher, himself a private practice provider, has seen first-hand the stress created by the high case count.

“In medicine, you have to do what’s in front of you, and so we’re asking fewer people to do more, and there is a breaking point,” said Bausher. “Fixing the problem requires the resources to fix it.”

Those resources mostly refer to staff. It’s always a challenge to recruit and keep talented and dedicated staff at rural hospitals like those found in this county, with often better money and schedules to be found in more populated areas.

“Unfortunately, our local hospitals have both shared their struggle with staffing, an issue being felt in health care across the state and likely further,” said Gwin. “It’s important that we do all we can as citizens to relieve the demand on this system, and show compassion and patience when we interact with them. Local health care workers are our friends and neighbors, and they deserve encouragement and community.”