Yelm school employees prepare laptops for students to pick up in this photo taken last April. 

Thurston County cases of COVID-19 continue to rise, including 18 more on Thursday, and that has led the county's health officer to recommend that expansion of hybrid, in-person learning be paused.

Dr. Dimyana Abdelmalek made that recommendation to county superintendents on Wednesday, and explained the decision in her weekly letter to the community on Thursday.

"Yesterday, in response to rising transmission rates in our community, I made the recommendation for at least a 14-day pause for expansion of hybrid in-person learning," she writes. "Students who are currently engaged in hybrid in-person learning can continue, but I am recommending no increase in students or days of hybrid in-person instruction while I monitor transmission rates in our community. I recommend schools continue serving students with the highest needs in cohorts of five."

Since Oct. 13, the county has been in the moderate COVID-19 transmission range of 61.6 cases per 100,000 population over the previous 14 days, the health officer writes in her letter.

If the county enters the high transmission range of 75 cases per 100,000 and stays there, expect another announcement, she writes.

"I will recommend transitioning back to remote learning as per the Washington state Department of Health decision making framework for schools, with exceptions for in-person learning opportunities for cohorts of up to five students with the greatest need."

Meanwhile, the 18 cases announced Thursday gives the county a total of 1,519. The new cases were in people 60 or younger, including four people in their 20s and four people between the ages of 10-19, the data show.

Of the overall total, 1,171 have recovered or are recovering, 105 have been hospitalized at some point during their illness and 21 have died. Six retirement-related facilities also are experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak, according to the county.


-- Pierce County added 85 cases on Thursday and no new deaths, giving the county a total of 8,858 cases and 182 deaths.

-- Lewis County reported five new cases on Thursday for a total of 654 and 10 deaths.

-- Grays Harbor County announced one new case Monday night for a total of 603 with 11 deaths.

-- Mason County reported four new cases on Thursday for a total of 522 with eight deaths.


The state Department of Health reported 676 new cases and 11 deaths on Thursday to give the state 96,185 cases with 2,232 deaths.

In the U.S., nearly 8 million cases had been reported and more than 217,000 people had died as of Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Globally, more than 38.7 million cases have been reported and nearly 1.1 million people have died as of Thursday, the data show.


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