People planning holiday gatherings can benefit from extra protection for themselves, their friends and family with free, at-home COVID tests available through Okanogan County Public Health.
The Say Yes! COVID test includes four two-test packages, which provide quick, reliable results. Public Health officials are recommending that people test themselves and any family members age 2 or older before attending a gathering, particularly with people who may be at high risk.
Okanogan County is one of nine counties in the state selected to participate in the joint initiative of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, local health officials, and the company that manufactures the test, which has been approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.
Test results will be completely confidential. Anonymized data will be shared with researchers at NIH-affiliated institutions to learn more about the effects of at-home testing on COVID infections and for any future pandemic. Researchers will study factors like test positivity rate and COVID illness and hospitalizations.
For more information and to order the tests, go to https://sayyescovidhometest.org. A limited number of test kits will also be available from Okanogan County Public Health, Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Booster shots are now available for all people age 18 and over, as long as at least six months have passed since their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or at least two months since the Johnosn & Johnson vaccine.
Booster doses are especially important for those at high risk of severe COVID-19, including older adults, people with chronic conditions, and anyone living in a congregate setting, according to the Washington Department of Health (DOH). Everyone age 5 and older is currently eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
For more information or to schedule a vaccine appointment, visit https://okanogancountycovid19.org/covid-19-vaccine.
Okanogan County cases
There were 72 COVID infections reported in Okanogan County in the four days from Nov. 15 through Nov. 18, according to Public Health. Four of those cases were in Twisp and three in Winthrop.
The two-week incidence rate per 100,000 population was 487. For the unvaccinated population, it was 1,004, and for the vaccinated population, it was 79. As of Nov. 17, 55.9% of county residents had been vaccinated.
On Nov. 17, Public Health announced six new deaths attributed to COVID. One female in her 50s, one female and one male in their 70s, and one female and two males in their 80s died recently. Two of the deceased were fully vaccinated, three were unvaccinated, and one had unknown vaccination status. There was no additional information about those who died as of press time.
Public Health has provided additional information about how they count and report COVID-related deaths.
If an Okanogan County resident passes away outside of Okanogan County, Public Health is often not notified about the death. Once the state DOH reviews vital records, they assign the deaths to the county of residence. Okanogan County Public Health doesn’t report a death until they have been able to verify the death certificate. As a result, the state database may show a different number from the county tally, Public Health said.