Overall infections increase in past two weeks
Okanogan County recorded 37 COVID cases in the week ending May 9, a slight decrease from last week. Still, the number of active cases documented in the past 14 days increased, from 66 last week to 78 this week. The rate per 100,000 population has also gone up, from 153 to 181.
Infections are distributed throughout the county, with no localized outbreaks. There were three cases in Winthrop and one in Twisp in the past week.
The county recorded one more death from COVID last week, for a total of 36 county residents lost to the disease.
Another 2% of Okanogan County residents were vaccinated in the past week. Now 36.3% of county residents are fully vaccinated, according to Okanogan County Public Health.
The county recorded its first two documented cases of COVID variants. Both of these variants are the most widespread in the state, by far – there have been about 2,000 cases of each one, compared with 350 for the next-most-common variant.
The Washington Department of Health (DOH) estimates that one of these two variants (originally detected in the United Kingdom) now accounts for 80% of all COVID cases in the state. Both variants are more contagious than other strains of the virus, and one appears to cause more severe disease. They both respond to antibodies from vaccines, although the antibodies may be slightly less effective in neutralizing one of the variants.
To identify variants, a lab must sequence the genetic structure of the virus. Washington has sequenced only about 10% of all confirmed COVID cases – among the highest rates in the country – although that includes very few samples in Okanogan County (between one and 94), according to DOH.
State health officials have been anxiously tracking statewide infection trends, which almost doubled between April 2 and April 16, just slightly below peak estimates in November. Hospitalizations have also increased overall, with the steepest increase among people ages 20 to 29.
The only people with a decrease in disease severe enough to require hospitalization are those 70 and over. They are also the most likely to have been vaccinated, according to DOH.
The increase in hospital admissions has been driven by people who are not vaccinated, DOH said. Among those 65 and older, the hospital admission rate for unvaccinated people is almost 10 times higher than for people who are fully vaccinated.
Still, despite the higher case numbers, health officials are “cautiously optimistic about a possible plateau,” acting State Health Officer Scott Lindquist said.
Citing that plateau last week, Gov. Jay Inslee paused changes in reopening phases. He also expanded opportunities for performances, sporting events, religious services and graduations to allow more spectators if the venues create a special seating area for vaccinated people.
For spectator events, indoor and outdoor facilities may add vaccinated sections until their total capacity is 50% of maximum. Outdoor facilities have a higher overall limit for attendance. The option to increase capacity by adding a section for vaccinated people is voluntary.