Okanogan County recorded 90 new COVID cases in the eight days ending Jan. 10, on par with the infection rate in recent weeks. As has been the trend, the cases are not an isolated outbreak in any one area in the county, but are widely distributed.
Winthrop logged three new cases, Twisp recorded two, and Mazama had its second case since the pandemic began. Omak, with 25 new cases, and Oroville, with 19, had the most cases this week. Locations are based on ZIP code and are not necessarily in the towns themselves.
Free testing provided by Okanogan County Public Health in Winthrop on Dec. 29 turned up one positive case in about 285 tests. The total number of cases in the county is now 1,888; deaths in the county from COVID remain at 32.
The infection rate per 100,000 population dipped to about 350 last week, but rose again to 403 after the weekend, according to Public Health.
Having these data about the virus available on the county’s COVID website (http://www.okanogancountycovid19.org) and the Public Health Facebook page has helped people see how the virus moves throughout the county, health officials said at the December meeting of the Okanogan County Coalition for Health Improvement.
There are 33 people being treated at Central Washington Hospital in Wenatchee for COVID, including 11 on ventilators in the ICU, Okanogan County Community Health Director Lauri Jones said this week. Those severely ill with COVID now occupy more than 90% of the hospital’s ICU beds reserved for COVID patients.
Public Health has used federal CARES Act money to buy three PCR machines — the “gold standard” for running tests for COVID and other diseases, Jones said. Having these machines in the county will save about $100 per test, since they’ll no longer have to be sent to Seattle. Public Health also used CARES Act money to buy a freezer for Three Rivers Hospital to preserve vaccines, she said.
Public Health hopes to obtain more funding to enable EMS to continue health checks for COVID patients recovering at home, which has kept people out of emergency rooms — and detected serious complications that require prompt hospitalization, Jones said. EMS also can conduct rapid COVID tests.
People who have enabled WA Notify, the smartphone app, will now get prompter notification of a positive COVID test via text message, which will help quickly notify anyone they may have unknowingly exposed to the virus.
Within 24 hours of a positive test, the Washington Department of Health (DOH) will text a link that activates a verification code. That code will anonymously alert others whose phones have been in proximity in the previous 14 days that they may have been exposed.
People who test positive will still receive notification from their health care provider or testing facility. What’s new is that the texted link will speed up notification of others so those individuals can follow up with a test and quarantine if necessary, DOH said.
WA Notify is different from contact tracing because it can notify strangers someone may have encountered on the street or at a store if they use the app. The alerts contain information about what to do to protect yourself and others, but no information about who tested positive nor when or where the exposure occurred. Anyone who receives a text and isn’t using WA Notify can disregard it.