COVID-19 cases in Okanogan County have shot up 230% in the past month, continuing an accelerating trend after consistently low infection rates during the first two months of the pandemic.
Okanogan County Public Health reported 134 cases as of Saturday (July 4), and the Washington Department of Health reported another 18 cases the following day. There were 66 cases in Okanogan County on June 5.
Confirmed infections in the county have increased most precipitously in the south county and Brewster area, going from 34 on June 5 to 81 on July 4 – now 60% of all cases in the county.
After two and a half months with just five confirmed cases, the Methow Valley added another case last week after one positive test in Winthrop. After an early spike in cases, the Colville Indian Reservation reported a new case on June 30, the first there since the end of April.
Of particular concern are the county’s first COVID cases in a long-term-care facility. Regency Harmony House Rehabilitation & Nursing Center in Brewster reported a positive test result for a resident on June 18. Follow-up testing of all residents and staff identified three more residents and one staff member with positive COVID results on July 1.
Harmony House is following guidelines for resident care from Okanogan County Public Health and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They are in daily contact with Public Health, according to a July 1 statement from Harmony House.
Over the course of the pandemic, Harmony House has followed strict infection-control measures, including screening all staff for illness when they arrive for work, barring visitors, increasing cleaning frequency, and regularly assessing residents’ temperature and oxygen levels, according to Harmony House. Staff use personal protective equipment.
Okanogan County Public Health officials were not available at press time to provide details about the new cases. The county has been doing rigorous contact tracing of all cases and, in the past had been able to determine the source of all infections. Thirteen out of 19 infections in mid- and late May were linked to a family barbecue that affected three households.
Public Health workers are contacting anyone who’s tested positive – as well as anyone with COVID symptoms – so that the individuals can be quarantined during the incubation period to prevent them from potentially spreading the virus.
It couldn’t be learned by press time if the new cases are limited to a family or workplace or if they appear to be community transmission.
Two deaths in Okanogan County have been attributed to COVID-19.
Okanogan County has obtained more personal protective equipment for hospitals, clinics, dentists, long-term-care facilities and home-health workers. The county also has 36,000 masks, which are being distributed for free to low-income county residents through food banks and other social-service organizations, according to Okanogan County Emergency Manager Maurice Goodall.