COVID-19 Activity Sees Uptick in Lewis County as Public Health Reports 182 New Cases

OMICRON: Public Health Director Believes New Variant May Already Be in Lewis County


New cases of COVID-19 rose by about 67% according to Lewis County Public Health & Social Services’ weekly report released Wednesday as 182 new cases of the disease were reported.

Viral activity the week of Nov. 28 to Dec. 4 appears to have seen a spike, according to the new numbers. Public Health reports 13 people were admitted into a hospital last week, an increase compared with the week prior, and the transmission rate has risen to 387 new cases per 100,000 population reported over the last two weeks in Lewis County.

The only statistic that saw a decrease this week was the number of deaths. Nine deaths were reported the week of Nov. 21 to Nov. 27. This week’s report shows five new deaths.

Lewis County Public Health & Social Services Director JP Anderson said the increase in the weekly caseload was not indicative of any one variable, such as the Thanksgiving holiday, and that the uptick hasn’t yet signaled any upward trend.

“Sometimes clusters can happen that are pretty big, and that may be the case,” Anderson told The Chronicle.

As more becomes known about the omicron variant of COVID-19, public health experts are encouraging residents who are eligible to get their booster shots to protect against waning immunity.

“Washington adults should not delay receiving their booster until more is known about omicron,” state Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah said in a statement this week.

“Vaccination and boosters are the best weapon we have to fight coronavirus now — preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death.”

Over the weekend, the first three cases of the omicron variant were identified in Washington state. The patients range in age from 20 to 39 and live in Thurston, Pierce and King counties.

“Little is known clinically about the omicron variant at this time. Researchers are working to learn more about it, but it was found here quickly thanks to increased surveillance efforts; lab specialists have been looking for omicron through PCR testing and genomic sequencing. The state also increased its lab capacity to detect genetic markers associated with new and existing variants,” read a news release from the state Department of Health.

Preliminary reports have stated omicron may be more infectious and its illness less severe than delta, but more study is needed, health experts say.

Currently, about 8-10% of all antigen and PCR tests for COVID-19, as well as domestic cases identified in international travelers, are being sequenced by the state to identify variants, Anderson said. Currently, the delta variant is the primary infector and is being found in just about every sequenced test.

Anderson said, due to the nature of the virus, he thinks it is likely the omicron variant is spreading in Lewis County, though no positive cases have been identified yet.

“If it was already here, and we weren’t already noticing it, that might be a better sign,” he said, adding later: “The next month is really going to tell us a whole lot more, but what we know is that the strategies remain the exact same … For us, it’s to stay the course.”

On Wednesday, Anderson reported to the Board of County Commissioners the number of people who had stayed in recent months at isolation and quarantine rooms that were being rented out at local hotels.

August saw 17 community members use their facilities, September saw 21 and October and November each saw six individuals.

Commissioner Lee Grose on Wednesday asked the county to provide more information on the number of individuals who are recovering after being hospitalized for COVID-19 and their length of stay, but County Manager Erik Martin said they’ve had trouble in the past getting folks to cooperate and provide information in followup calls.

“What happened was our recovery numbers looked very low because we didn’t get enough good information back on recoveries, so we stopped looking at that. We can try again, but that’s kind of where people are at because once they’re through it, they don’t want to talk about it anymore and don’t want to tell the government how they’re feeling today,” Martin said.

Anderson told commissioners he may be able to pull information on the length of stay.

“This is the problem with this whole COVID thing. We have lots of people getting sick, but nobody getting well. And I believe that there are a lot more people getting well than anybody knows about, so we continue this government charade of wearing masks and being vaccinated because nothing good’s happening, but I think a lot of good is happening,” Grose said.