With COVID-19 levels the highest they’ve been since August and other respiratory illnesses spreading at high rates throughout the region, Clark County Public Health officials are recommending a return to masking indoors.
“Communities across our state and around the U.S. are experiencing an unprecedented surge in viral respiratory illnesses, including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza and COVID-19,” Dr. Alan Melnick, Public Health director and Clark County health officer, and Dr. Steven Krager, Clark County deputy health officer, stated in a news release issued Friday, Dec. 9. “As health officers and health care leaders working to improve the health of Washington residents, we recommend that everyone wear a high-quality, well-fitting mask when around others in indoor spaces to protect against both acquiring and spreading these infections to others.”
Melnick and Krager also urged Clark County residents to stay up to day on vaccinations, including the updated COVID-19 booster and this year’s flu vaccine, and said “vaccinations are the most important way to protect against severe influenza and COVID-19 infections.”
According to Public Health, the flu is expected to circulate for months and is most dangerous for children younger than 5, adults older than 65, pregnant people and anyone living with a health condition such as asthma, heart disease or diabetes.
The county’s new release pointed out that “new COVID-19 variants are taking hold and immunity from past vaccination is waning for many people who have not yet received an updated booster shot.”
COVID levels in Clark County have been steadily rising for several weeks, with the percentage of hospital beds occupied by COVID patients in Clark County increasing more than 13% and the number of local intensive care beds occupied by COVID patients increasing 8.5% during the first week of December
“The surge in these viruses is resulting in many illnesses, contributing to rising absenteeism in schools this fall. This impact extends to businesses, workers, and families,” according to the county’s news release.
The county has seen 974 COVID and suspected-COVID deaths since the pandemic began in early 2020, including 90 people in their 50s, 55 people between the ages of 20 and 49 and one person between the ages of 10 and 19, according to the county’s records.
Flu activity in Washington state, as of Dec. 1, was considered “very high,” according to the Washington State Department of Health, with at least seven deaths in Washington state so far this flu season.
Children’s hospitals throughout the U.S. have seen a surge in respiratory viruses this fall. In mid-November, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services stated in a letter to President Joe Biden asking the president to declare an emergency, that more than three-quarters of the nation’s pediatric hospital beds were full with “many states reporting more than 90 percent of their pediatric beds are occupied.”
Clark County Public Health officials said 38% of influenza tests administered in Clark County were positive for the second week in a row and that the county’s seven-day COVID case rate climbed to 87.5 cases per 100,000 residents.
County health officials are asking Clark County residents to wear high-quality, well-fitting masks (such as N95 respirators or KN95 masks) when around others in indoor spaces, get vaccinated and take the following precautions to help prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses:
- Stay home from work and school and test for COVID-19 if you develop symptoms;
- Have a plan for rapid treatment for COVID-19 and influenza for people who are at increased risk for severe infections; and
- Improve indoor air quality through ventilation, filtration and UV technology where appropriate.
For more information about when to take an ill child to the hospital or an urgent care clinic, visit marybridge.org/for-patients-families/where-to-seek-care.