Pacific County experiencing major Covid spike

Pacific County is experiencing “exponential” growth in the number of COVID-19 cases, county officials said in their weekly status report Wednesday, with the number of cases since the pandemic more than doubling in the first two weeks of this month.

From April through October, the county reported 121 cases. From Nov. 1 to Nov. 17, there were 125 more. The update from Nov. 16 to the 18th included 55 new cases, according to Scott McDougall, director of the county’s Emergency Management Agency.

Some schools had begun returning to face-to-face classes, but this week Pacific County Deputy Health Officer Dr. Steven Krager wrote schools calling for a return to distance learning.

“It is with a heavy heart that I must announce a return to distance learning for all Willapa Valley students beginning on Monday, Nov 23,” said Willapa Valley School District Superintendent Nancy Morris. “The quick and severe spike in Pacic County COVID cases has caused (Dr. Krager) to call for distance learning for all students in local schools for the time being.

“… We are all deeply disappointed by this new development, but we are confident that our students and staff and parents can and will meet the challenge (again) head on. We have learned lessons from our remote start this fall, and this session of remote learning will be all the better because of that. This return to distance learning does not have an end date set yet; and we will return to in-person instruction as soon as we can. However, it will likely be in place for several weeks, and with the holidays approaching, it may well carry through to the Christmas holiday break.”

In the latest batch of 55 cases, seven were children 10 years old or younger, all of them linked to cases in their household. Eleven were between the ages of 11 and 20. Eight of those were related to cases in their own households and three were from workplace transmission.

Until now, the county didn’t count positive “fast-track” tests as cases until they were confirmed, but per Krager’s direction, it will now count those cases — previously categorized as “probable” cases — as positive. McDougall noted that false-positive results on those cases is rare.

McDougall said that means the state Department of Health case numbers will lag behind what is reported by the county.

As of Wednesday, the county knew of 86 active cases, with four people hospitalized.

County health officials strongly encouraged people to limit social gatherings.

“It’s completely reasonable — and safer — to decide to celebrate Thanksgiving with just your immediate household this year,” McDougall said. “Making that decision is hard, and it can be even harder to tell your family what you have decided, but during COVID-19, saying ‘no’ to some events can be an act of caring, especially if our loved ones are at high risk of getting very sick.”