Matt Talavera, a pharmacist for CVS, fills a syringe with COVID-19 vaccine outside the Life Care Center in Kirkland, where some employees were vaccinated on Dec. 28, 2020. Steve Ringman | The Seattle Times

Matt Talavera, a pharmacist for CVS, fills a syringe with COVID-19 vaccine outside the Life Care Center in Kirkland, where some employees were vaccinated on Dec. 28, 2020. Steve Ringman | The Seattle Times

Pandemic’s fifth wave roars on

COVID-19 case counts in Grays Harbor County shot up again this week, with 429 new cases reported the week of Sept. 9-15, four new deaths and 22 new hospitalizations.

Compare that to the week prior, when there appeared to be a dip in the fifth wave’s numbers in terms of total cases, 317. The week prior to that there were 394.

“In the last seven-day reporting period Grays Harbor saw 429 new cases. For perspective, during the first week of August, we reported 136 new cases, and for the first week of July we reported none,” said Nikki Gwin, Grays Harbor County Public Health community health worker.

Stafford Creek Corrections Center is experiencing a localized outbreak of its own. The most current report from the Washington State Department of Corrections reports there have been 27 new cases of COVID at Stafford Creek in the past month. Through the duration of the pandemic so far, there have been 1,233 confirmed cases at Stafford Creek — the county total is 6,050 as of Wednesday, Sept. 15.

There have now been 97 COVID-related deaths reported in Grays Harbor County. The percent of deaths versus total cases has dropped a decimal point to 1.5%, but is still higher than the 1.2% statewide rate.

Public health officials continue to stress the importance of vaccinations, but that doesn’t mean you still don’t have a chance of getting the virus. Masking and social distancing continue to play major roles in preventing the spread of COVID.

“In August, we reported 665 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 117 of which were fully vaccinated,” said Gwin. “We know that breakthrough cases are to be expected, because no vaccine is 100% effective. Regardless, COVID-19 vaccines are incredibly effective at preventing negative outcomes from infection like severe illness, hospitalization and death.”

The effectiveness is evident in national reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and statewide numbers coming from the Washington State Department of Health, she said.

As of Sept. 13, 73,359 total vaccine doses have been put into the arms of Grays Harbor County residents, according to the state Department of Health. Among the total population age 12 and older, 55% of the county is considered fully vaccinated.

There are plenty of COVID vaccines available. Type your ZIP code into vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov and, for example, you’ll find 33 within 50 miles of Hoquiam. Grays Harbor County Public Health is holding vaccination clinics three days a week, including Saturdays, at the Pearsall Building in Aberdeen. Make an appointment at healthygh.org/covid-vaccine.

If you’re experiencing symptoms or think you may have been exposed, the Curative testing kiosks in Elma and Aberdeen are taking appointments at curative.com; tests are in high demand so make sure to schedule an appointment before showing up at a kiosk.

“Local testing providers continue to feel the pressure as demand has not waned. Our partners at Curative who operate a kiosk in our parking lot have shared that they are nearing their total capacity almost daily at this point,” said Gwin. “This crunch comes as the spread of COVID-19 continues to spike dramatically.”

Grays Harbor County Public Health is trying to expand its resource center team to field the large volume of calls coming in during the fifth wave of the pandemic, as well as its disease investigation team tasked with the growing job of contacting new cases and close contacts.

“Public health is continuing to fight the good fight and protect the community however we can,” said Gwin. “We’re here for our friends and neighbors, and happy to serve our county in these difficult times.”

Community Hospital visitation policy

Last week, Summit Pacific Medical Center in Elma made changes to its procedures in light of the recent surge, and this past week Harbor Regional Health Community Hospital in Aberdeen made some of its own.

“Due to the continuing surge of COVID-19 in our community and in the interest of the health and safety of our patients, staff, and community, Harbor Regional Health Community Hospital is tightening and clarifying restrictions to visitation in the hospital,” read a hospital statement posted Thursday, Sept. 16.

Each visitor or and support person will be screened prior to admission. Individuals who have positive screening results, which are indicative of COVID-19, will not be allowed admission to hospital facilities. Individuals who are allowed admission to the building will be given a screened sticker, which must be worn throughout the duration of their visit.

There are different rules for visitation depending on the numerous factors. Before you plan to visit any Harbor Regional Health facility, look at the full list of rules at ghcares.org/covid.