Since the beginning of January, at least 2% of the total Lewis County population has likely tested positive for COVID-19 as the omicron variant continues to cause new spikes in caseloads locally.
On Wednesday, Lewis County Public Health & Social Services reported a record-high 951 cases during the week of Jan. 9-15, as well as 43 hospitalizations and 10 new deaths.
“We’re watching it closely and hoping for the crest and the recession. We know that will happen, but we’re still in the middle of it right now,” Public Health Director JP Anderson told county commissioners Wednesday morning.
Last week, Anderson said officials were hoping that the surge would drop “as sharply as its peak, in two weeks or so.” State health officials have voiced similar optimism with the current surge in cases.
At least 1,702 Lewis County residents are confirmed to have tested positive for COVID-19 since Jan. 2. With a 2020 U.S. Census population of 82,149, at least 2% have likely reported a positive case.
The 10 deaths confirmed by Public Health this last week were more than likely backlogged from previous weeks, Anderson said.
"We still have some that we are awaiting our copy of the death certificate to confirm," Anderson said. "I would guess those are from about three to four weeks back."
Lewis County’s seven-day hospitalization rate continues to climb, and as of Wednesday was more than twice the statewide rate of 24.2.
"Our hope is that (cases) will go down as rapidly as it inclined," Anderson said. "All the hospitals in our areas ... are all very full, and so we're definitely in the peak of this surge and we're hoping and praying it ends soon."
Washington state is seeing a statewide seven-day case rate of 756.5 cases per 100,000 population. About 1.1 million cases have been reported since the start of the pandemic and more than 10,000 Washingtonians have died.
Dr. Tao Sheng Kwan-Gett, chief science officer with the Washington state Department of Health, said nearly all new cases are now from the omicron variant and that the state’s case counts are more than likely an undercount with the rise of at-home rapid antigen tests, which aren’t being reported to the state.
On Tuesday, the Biden Administration’s online web portal to order four at-home tests went online. U.S. residents can order them online at www.covidtests.gov. Washington DOH staff on Wednesday said they were in the process of launching a similar web portal, though little details were available.
Anderson said Lewis County has received a shipment of about 400 at-home tests, though they’re currently distributing their small supply to clinics struggling to meet testing demands and to emergency responders.
He expects the county will receive more tests soon, and will work with partners to distribute those tests in settings where they’re most needed.
While the hospitalization rate among cases has fallen dramatically with omicron, the more-infectious nature of the new variant has been driving an increase in overall hospitalizations, though hospitals have reported patients with milder symptoms.
“We’re watching death trends very carefully. They have been on a steady decline over the last few months, but in recent weeks there seems to be something of a leveling off,” Kwan-Gett said during a Wednesday COVID-19 media availability. “We’re not sure if this is a harbinger of perhaps a rise in deaths, which we sometimes see after a rise in cases and hospitalizations, or if this is just a temporary plateau.”
Last week, patients and staff with Chehalis rehab facility American Behavioral Health Systems reported a large outbreak, though Chief Operating Officer Tony Prentice declined to speak Wednesday with The Chronicle about the size of the outbreak.
ABHS Chehalis is one of roughly 15 congregate care centers in Lewis County that are working to quell COVID-19 outbreaks in their facilities.