A doctor prepares to conduct a COVID-19 swab test at Valley View Health Center Friday afternoon in Centralia.

Lewis County Public Health and Social Services announced nine new cases Wednesday and another seven Thursday, bringing the case count since Monday to 25 and the total diagnoses in the county to 180. 

Public Health Director J.P. Anderson said Thursday his office had planned to give more detailed data and statistics on COVID-19 in Lewis County to the Board of County Commissioners, but that staff had been stretched thin, partly due to the influx of cases recently. He also noted that his staff had been working with Lewis County Health Officer Dr. Rachel Wood to review plans for area schools reopening.

“The last two days have been really tense looking at what’s going on regionally with schools and trying to figure out how we can best respond,” Anderson said, speaking during a meeting Thursday afternoon with his staff and the BOCC. “One of the things that’s been really challenging with this — people talk about bandwidth a lot. We’ve been stressed to respond to the amount of incoming questions we’re getting, on top of the new cases.”

Anderson and deputy prosecutor Amber Smith also addressed calls from the community to more detailed information about local infections. They said that right now, the county still doesn’t have enough cases to allow them to announce cases in smaller areas than county commissioner districts, such as by zip code, without potentially disclosing patient information. 

“There’s a real mixed bag as far as benefit,” Anderson added. “Because it could inform decisions that ...  it would seem that if you had fewer cases in one area your behavior could change because the danger is less.”

The information could lead to a false sense of security in areas with fewer cases, he said, causing people to take fewer precautions and potentially open themselves up to infection.

“The point is we want the hospitals to be open, to have beds for people that need them,” Wood said. “If the cases go up, the deaths follow, and if you don’t have enough supplies you’re going to be in a very uncomfortable situation where you’re trying to decide who does get the ventilator. I don’t know that everyone thinks about this, but it’s always in the back of my mind.”

Of the nine new patients announced Wednesday, one is under age 10, one is between 10 and 20, two are in their 20s, two are in their 30s, and one each in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. None were hospitalized as of Wednesday.

Seven patients live in Commissioner District 1, and one each live in districts 2 and 3. 

One of the seven announced Thursday is under 10-years-old, two are in their 20s, two are in their 30s, and two are in their 50s. None are hospitalized. 

Three patients live in Commissioner District 1, and one lives in district 2, and three live in district 3. 

 Fifty-one of the 180 are considered recovered under the current definition of being alive and not hospitalized 28 days after symptoms began.

In response to a question from Commissioner Gary Stamper, Anderson noted that the day cases are announced is not the day they first exhibit symptoms or even the day they are tested.

“We’re reporting these cases out today and typically what that’s gonna mean is they were diagnosed today and we were notified and we interviewed them,” Anderson said. “These are new cases, but you’re correct, depending on the turnaround time for the lab result they could have been tested a week ago. They were certainly tested a couple of days ago. Their symptom onset would have typically been a couple of days before that.”

Commissioner Bobby Jackson asked Thursday if LCPHSS could note any asymptomatic cases when announcing new positive test results. 

Deputy Public Health Director John Abplanalp said LCPHSS could begin making that information public next week. 

“Some asymptomatic people would be testing because they’re living with people who have medical conditions that would make them very high risk … and some people are testing because they’ve been a contact to a known positive case,” Wood said. “We’re preferring that people get tested who have symptoms, but the bar is pretty low. … Right now people have allergies … they could go tested because they have symptoms that could be COVID or could be their allergy.” 

To date 5,814 Lewis County residents have been tested for COVID-19, an increase of 83 tests from the previous day. A total of 180 residents (3.1 percent) have tested positive.

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(1) comment

I'm sure Dr. Rachel Wood never anticipated the workload this year would bring with the COVID-19 pandemic. We are very lucky to have her and, yes, LC health is over worked, under staffed, and under funded. We do need zip code reporting and how many people have been hospitalized for COVID-19. The reason we don't have zip code reporting is not a privacy issue at this point, but is a matter of high public interest. We need to know how prevalent new infections are in our communities.

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