There’ve been just a handful of new COVID infections in Okanogan County, with only four cases reported in the past week (as of Sept. 21), although the county lost another person to the disease. Nine of the cases are active, according to Okanogan County Public Health.
The low number of infections puts the county’s rate per 100,000 population at 21.1 for the past two weeks, slightly below the threshold — if sustained — set by the county’s public health officers to support in-person classroom instruction.
COVID cases have been declining overall in western Washington and plateauing in eastern Washington, according to the state Department of Health (DOH). But the situation is fluid. Cases in Ferry County, which had recorded only one case as of July 7, climbed in July and August, with a cumulative count of 14 at the end of July, 25 at the end of August, and 29 as of Sept. 19, according to DOH. Cases are still increasing in Adams and Whitman counties.
In Okanogan County, men have been more afflicted by the disease, with 563 of the county’s 1,042 cases since the start of the pandemic and eight of the 13 deaths. Women have constituted 434 of the cases and five deaths. The gender of 45 cases is unknown.
Statewide, 49% of cases have been in women and 47% in men, although more men were hospitalized and more died from the disease, according to DOH.
Brewster has suffered the greatest impact by far, with 595 — more than half — of total infections. Omak is next at 164. In the Methow Valley, there have been six cases in Winthrop, one in Twisp, and two in Carlton, and no deaths.
Young people affected
The majority of cases in the county — 422 — have hit relatively young people from age 20 to 39, and two in that age group died. People aged 40 to 59 accounted for 308 of the cases and one death. Those 60 to 79 had 128 cases and the majority (9) of deaths. There have been eight cases in those 80 and older and just one death. Even the youngest people in the county got sick more than those over 60, with 176 cases in ages 0 to 19, with no deaths.
Washington also recorded the highest number of cases in people age 20 to 39, at 40% of the total. Most hospitalizations in the state were for people 60 to 79, with most deaths — 51% — in those over 80, according to DOH.
Data by race and ethnicity is not available for Okanogan County, but the overall numbers show troubling inequities. In north-central Washington (Okanogan, Chelan, Douglas, Kittitas and Grant counties), 45% of cases were not classified by race or ethnic group, making it difficult to see the disease’s regional impacts.
“The pandemic has exacerbated the underlying and persistent inequities among historically marginalized communities and those disproportionately impacted due to structural racism and other forms of systemic oppression,” DOH said in a report issued last week.
Case rates for Black people are approximately three times higher than for Asians and whites. White people had the lowest hospitalization rate. Compared to whites, hospitalization rates are 13 times higher for Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders, eight times higher for Hispanic people, and three and a half times higher for Blacks.
White people also have the lowest death rate, six times lower than for Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders and more than four times lower than for American Indian/Alaska Native and Hispanic people, according to DOH.
What did testing find?
Free community testing at 11 sites in Okanogan County in August found 32 positive cases among the 2,159 people tested, a positivity rate of 1.5%. Twenty-eight people who got a test don’t live in the county and one positive was not a county resident.
Most tests were conducted in Winthrop (376), followed by Omak (368) and Oroville (367). Pateros, where there were 10 positives out of 160 tests, had the highest percentage of positive cases.
A COVID test is just a snapshot of a point in time, since a person could become infected after the test or could have been exposed but not registered an infection yet, Public Health said. People still need to take precautions including wearing masks, keeping a distance from others, and avoiding large groups, they said.