COVID cases hold steady, but masks still needed

Posted 7/29/20

It was a new song, but one with a familiar theme.

Strapping on a banjo, Jefferson County Commissioner Greg Brotherton noted how he had recently been in one of his favorite restaurants and found no …

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COVID cases hold steady, but masks still needed

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It was a new song, but one with a familiar theme.

Strapping on a banjo, Jefferson County Commissioner Greg Brotherton noted how he had recently been in one of his favorite restaurants and found no one wearing a face mask.

He came home frustrated, he said, and decided to write a song.

“I’m not a singer,” he warned as he plucked his banjo to the old-time Appalachian fiddle standard “Cluck Old Hen” with new lyrics inspired by these pandemic times.

“You mask you and I’ll mask me — Jefferson County needs Phase 3,” Brotherton sang as officials looked on bemused during the county commissioners’ virtual meeting Monday.

“Hopefully that can become a regular feature — a musical opening act,” County Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke said as he began his weekly update to commissioners on the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Humor aside, there was a bit to crow about anyway.

Locke noted that Jefferson County had gone more than 10 days without a new confirmed case of the coronavirus.

“We have been holding at 50 cases for the last 10 days,” Locke said, noting the last positive test of COVID-19 was confirmed July 15.

Locke said Washington was now at the six-month anniversary of the first confirmed case of coronavirus in the country, but added that it’s now believed that the disease had already made its way into the country, from China and Europe, before the first case was discovered Jan. 24.

“The virus is still surging across the United States,” he said, adding that the rate of positive tests are increasing in 44 states. 

The death rate is also rising, and follows a two-week lag behind the increasing number of COVID-19 cases that have been reported.

Washington state’s recent spike in cases seems to be dampening, Locke added.

That said, the number of cases has been increasing recently in adjacent Clallam and Kitsap counties.

In mid-July, Kitsap County was reporting as many as 28 new cases a day including, at one point, outbreaks in six different nursing homes, Locke said.

“We’re certainly not an island and we’re very much impacted by what goes on in adjacent counties,” he said. “We’re at risk of that but we’re doing everything possible to try to prevent that.”

“It just underscores the fact that we have to do this together, as a region, as a state and as a whole country,” Locke added.

People must continue to abide by physical distancing, hand washing and sanitizing, and not touching their face, he added.

Masks remain “an absolutely crucial strategy for source control,” Locke said.

Computer models suggest that the more people who wear masks, the more the curve of new COVID cases will be flattened.

Previously, getting 80 percent of the population to wear masks was thought to be sufficient.

“Now the target is really around 95 percent,” Locke said.

“What you really need to be successful is to crush the curve; flatten it to an extreme degree,” he added.

In early July, the county had seen a new uptick in cases.

Jefferson Healthcare Medical Center treated two patients for COVID-19 in the same week earlier this month — the first time the hospital has had more than one person with the disease in the facility at the same time.

Dr. Kees Kolff, a hospital commissioner for Jefferson Healthcare, told members of the county Board of Health at its last meeting that the two patients had been treated in the hospital’s intensive care unit.

“It’s the first time we had more than one,” Kolff noted. 

“We do have adequate policies and personnel protective equipment to do it safely,” he added.

Kolff said one of the patients was treated with remdesivir, an antiviral treatment which, according to the National Institutes of Health, has helped hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19 infections who needed supplemental oxygen. Remdesivir was approved for emergency use for treating COVID-19 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in May, and Kolff noted the drug had been obtained from Washington state through the Washington State Hospital Association.

Kolff also reported that no one on staff at the hospital has been infected with the coronavirus.

“To date, we have had no transmission of virus in the hospital to any of our staff,” he said.

More than 130 of our staff for COVID-19 have been conducted on hospital staff when it was required, Kolff added.

At this week’s commissioners’ meeting, Emergency Management Director Willie Bence also offered some encouraging news on the mask front.

He said the department’s ongoing survey of local face mask use, conducted at local businesses, had counted 96 people.

“All 96 were properly masked,” Bence told commissioners at Monday’s meeting.

It was the first time the county had found 100 percent compliance during a survey, he added.

Bence said others may not see such a high rate of compliance if they look around.

“Your mileage may vary,” he joked.

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