This story was updated on Aug. 13 to reflect revised information from Okanogan County Public Health. Three COVID cases that Public Health had assigned to Twisp should have been reported for Tonasket. The number of new infections in Twisp in the six days ending Aug. 8 was six, not nine.
Predictions by public health officials that the Delta variant poses a major threat have been borne out, with COVID cases rising steeply across the state.
The number of new infections in Okanogan County has almost tripled in six days, from 16 last week to 45 as of Sunday (Aug. 8). Six of the new cases were in Twisp and five in Winthrop.
The infection rate per 100,000 population in the past 14 days for vaccinated people is 24; for unvaccinated people, it’s 265, according to Okanogan County Public Health.
The overall case rate in Okanogan County of 148 cases per 100,000 is considerably less severe than elsewhere in the region. Douglas County has had the steepest rate, with 446 cases, Grant County had 439 cases, and Chelan County had 424 per 100,000. Central Washington Hospital is treating 26 people for COVID, including one in the ICU.
After a sustained drop in cases from April through early July, new COVID infections have gone up sharply across the state. Statewide, the seven-day rolling average climbed from 475 as of July 10 to 1,837 as of Aug. 8, according to the state Department of Health (DOH). In the first week of August, Washington saw an average of 1,500 new cases each day, DOH said. Hospital occupancy has reached its highest level this year.
More than 94% of all cases, deaths and hospitalizations in Washington can be attributed to people who have not been fully vaccinated, DOH said.
Vaccination mandate for state workers
Gov. Jay Inslee issued one of the country’s strictest proclamations on vaccination, requiring state workers, contractors and volunteers – even those who are teleworking – to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of employment. The order also applies to individuals who work in private health care and long-term care settings. People getting a two-dose vaccine must get their second shot by Oct. 4 to have full immunity by the Oct. 18 deadline.
“These workers live in every community in our state, working together and with the public every day to deliver services,” Inslee said. “We have a duty to protect them from the virus, they have the right to be protected, and the communities they serve and live in deserve protection as well,” Inslee said.
The proclamation, issued Monday (Aug. 9), applies to executive cabinet agencies. The governor encouraged all other agencies, including local governments, the legislative branch, statewide elected officials, and the private sector to require vaccination as well.
Individuals with legitimate medical reasons or sincerely held religious beliefs will be exempt from the vaccine mandate, but those with personal or philosophical objections will not. Employees who refuse to be vaccinated will be subject to dismissal from employment for failing to meet legal job qualifications.
There won’t be an option for employees to get regular COVID tests in lieu of vaccination. Previous policies that allowed staff at congregate facilities to get tested instead of vaccinated weren’t effective at preventing outbreaks, Inslee said.
The proclamation notes that widespread vaccination is the primary means the state has to protect everyone, including people who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons; immunocompromised individuals; and those under the age of 12, who aren’t eligible for the vaccine.