Trend expected to continue in coming weeks
Okanogan County Public Health reported 34 COVID cases for the six days ending Jan. 2. One of the cases was in Twisp and eight were in Winthrop.
Federal, state and local health authorities have issued new guidelines for testing, quarantine and isolation in light of year-end holiday gatherings and the extremely contagious Omicron variant, which has broken daily records for the rate of new infections across the country.
Washington hasn’t seen as pronounced a surge as elsewhere in the country, but cases are climbing sharply. After the state’s most-recent-low seven-day average of 1,245 cases on Dec. 11, cases multiplied to a seven-day average of 4,599 on Dec. 27, when 5,770 cases were reported, according to the Washington Department of Health (DOH). Incomplete data for Jan. 2 put cases statewide at 5,927. The highest recent single-day case report in Washington was 6,140 on Dec. 24.
The increase in new cases outpaces the increase in testing seen over the holidays, DOH said.
COVID transmission is expected to rise in the coming weeks, DOH said. While it’s still too early to tell how much of the increase is due to Omicron, it is increasing in Washington and is now most likely the dominant strain, DOH epidemiologists said.
After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) changed its guidance on Dec. 27 for isolation and quarantine for people exposed to or sick with COVID, DOH and Okanogan County Public Health also updated their recommendations.
Isolation is for people who are currently ill and able to spread COVID. They need to stay away from others in order to avoid infecting them, Public Health said.
Quarantine is for people who are not currently showing symptoms but are at increased risk because they have been exposed to COVID. These people could become sick or may be carrying the virus and could spread it to others.
The CDC recommended the changes because data show that most COVID transmission happens early in the course of illness – even before symptoms begin. The research shows that most transmission occurs in the five-day period starting one to two days before any symptoms begin,. It continues through two to three days after the symptoms first developed, Public Health said.
The new guidelines shorten the recommended isolation time at home from 10 to five days, as long as the people have no symptoms or fever on day five. When back at work or in other public spaces, these individuals must wear a mask when around others for five days. Masks should fit snugly and have multiple layers.
If they develop any new symptoms, they should immediately quarantine until a test confirms that the symptoms aren’t related to COVID-19.
The state and county are also following the CDC’s new guidance for people exposed to someone with COVID. People who have been vaccinated and received a booster shot don’t need to quarantine, but should wear a mask for 10 days after exposure.
Unvaccinated individuals and those who haven’t received a booster shot should stay home for five days and then wear a mask for another five days. These guidelines apply to people who got their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine more than six months ago, or the J&J vaccine two months ago.
Everyone who has been exposed to someone with COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status, should get a COVID test five days after exposure, Public Health said.
Okanogan County has a place where people can isolate or quarantine if they don’t have a safe place in their home. Call (509) 422-7140.
Because COVID tests have been difficult to get in some areas of the state or country, people may be hearing varying recommendations on testing.
After receiving a high volume of calls from people wanting COVID tests after the Christmas holiday, Confluence Health in Wenatchee reminded people that they only need a test if they have COVID symptoms or were exposed to someone with COVID. Because of limited appointments and supplies and the need to preserve tests for people with COVID symptoms, people shouldn’t get a test merely for peace of mind, Confluence Chief Operating Officer Glenn Adams said.
“It is important to remember that testing is a tool, and that a negative test today doesn’t ensure you will not develop COVID-like symptoms tomorrow,” he said.
For locations in Okanogan County to get a COVID test, see https://okanogancountycovid19.org/symptoms-testing.