Clark County COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations increasing again

Local public health officials urge vaccinations, masking in public indoor spaces

With the COVID-19 activity rate now four times higher than it was just three weeks ago, Clark County Public Health officials are urging everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated against the coronavirus and wear face coverings in public indoor spaces to help slow the spread of the virus.

“The data continues to show that the vaccines provide the best protection against COVID-19, particularly against hospitalization and death,” Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County health officer and Public Health director said this week. “With virus activity rising and hospitals getting busier, it’s more important than ever to get vaccinated.”

The county was averaging about 21 COVID-19 cases per day in mid-July. This week, that number increased to nearly 140 cases per day, causing the county’s COVID-19 activity rate to jump from 50 cases per 100,000 residents on July 22 to 191 cases per 100,000 residents on Aug. 12.

During the 2020-21 school year, the Washington Department of Health split COVID-19 activity levels into three groups: high, moderate and low, with “moderate” being 50 to 350 cases per 100,000 residents. Clark County dipped into the “high” activity range in December 2020 and January 2021, when local COVID-19 activity rates ranged from 386 to 473 cases per 100,000 residents.

In a Facebook post published on Friday, Aug. 13, Clark County Public Health officials said COVID-19 case rates are rising in all age groups, “with the highest rates among young adults 20 to 39 years old” and case rates for children and young adults age 10 to 19 “increasing over the last month” with numbers for that age group now approaching those seen during the height of the pandemic in the winter of 2021. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults ages 18 to 49 accounted for the largest increase in COVID-19-related hospitalizations in the week ending July 24.

At least 300 people in Clark County have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.

Public health officials blame low vaccination rates, more contagious COVID-19 variants and more people gathering in groups for the rapid increase in local COVID-19 cases.

“Hospitalization rates are also increasing and are now nearing the highs reached in December and January,” the county reported in a news release about increasing COVID-19 rates. “Statewide data shows that most people being hospitalized with COVID-19 are not fully vaccinated. A recent report from the state Department of Health shows that 95 percent of people hospitalized with COVID-19 through July 24 were not fully vaccinated.

People ages 12 and older are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. In Clark County, about 57 percent of the eligible population are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and 63 percent have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

County officials say a “small proportion of people who are fully vaccinated may still get COVID-19, but infections tend to be mild” and that “some people who are fully vaccinated and get infected with the delta variant may be able to spread the virus to others.”

The state’s department of health estimates the delta variant, which is known to be more contagious than previous COVID-19 variants, accounts for at least 90 percent of current COVID-19 cases in Washington.

On Aug. 12, Melnick and Clark County Deputy Health Officer Dr. Steven Krager, joined public health officials across the state in recommending all Washingtonians wear face coverings in indoor public settings, regardless of their vaccination status.

“This step will help reduce the risk of COVID-19 to the public, including customers and workers, help stem the increase in COVID19 cases and hospitalizations in many parts of the state and decrease the spread of the highly contagious delta variant,” the health officials said in their joint statement, adding that “vaccinations are our best defense against COVID-19 and are safe, effective and readily available for everyone age 12 and over. Please get yours immediately if you are not already vaccinated.”

The COVID-19 vaccine is widely available at local pharmacies and medical offices in Clark County. To find vaccine locations, visit VaccineLocator.doh.wa.gov or VaccineFinder.org; 833-VAX-HELP or text your zip code to 438829 (GETVAX). For more information about the COVID-19 vaccines, talk to your primary care provider or visit clark.wa.gov/public-health/covid-19-vaccine.