May Cheers & Jeers

With graduation ceremonies less than two weeks away for Camas-Washougal seniors, our first CHEERS goes out to our local graduates in the class of 2022. This class only had one “normal” year of high school before COVID hit, and then jumped into a world of remote learning, event cancellations, limited in-person communication with their peers and other mitigations meant to rein in our community’s COVID transmission rate. Despite so many upheavals, this class kept pushing forward through each new upheaval. May this sense of resiliency stay with them as they embark on their post-high school lives.

CHEERS also goes out to the group of local student-athletes who placed in their top 10 in the state during recent state championship meets, games and tournaments. Local riders on the Washougal equestrian team took home their first No. 1 state title in 14 years, and a number of Camas-Washougal golfers, track and field athletes and tennis players recently earned top honors at their respective state meets. (See related coverage on pages A1 and A6 of this week’s Post-Record). 

A third CHEERS for the return of the Camas Farmer’s Market this week. The first market of the season opened Wednesday, June 1, and featured not only its normal array of locally grown produce and flowers, but also a health fair sponsored by Ripple Wellness and featuring more than a dozen local health-related businesses touting the benefits of everything from yoga and chiropractic adjustments to naturopathic medicine and dental care. 

And while we are all more than ready to focus on healthy living after living through a global pandemic for more than two years, we cannot leave COVID-19 in our rearview mirror quite yet, unfortunately. In fact, COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths are rising again across the country. 

In Clark County, from May 19 to May 26, the rate of new COVID cases per 100,000 residents climbed to 217.5, up 51.8 from the week prior. Cases increased by 1,157 even without community wide testing centers that helped us keep a better handle on how many people were testing positive for COVID during the first two years of the pandemic. Local hospitalization rates due to COVID are also ticking up and we added four more deaths to our total of 811 Clark County residents who have perished from this disease. 

Keep in mind that school districts across Clark County in 2020 and 2021 were using Clark County Public Health’s measurements of low, moderate and high COVID-19 transmission rates as a guide for bringing students back to the classroom and that “high” transmission rates during much of the pandemic were considered anything over 75 cases per 100,000 residents. We are currently at a transmission rate that is three times higher than that original threshold — and around the same rate we saw during the Delta surge in the summer and fall of 2021. And, yes, we have vaccines and some limited treatments that have been reportedly difficult to find, but our youngest students under the age of 5 are still unable to receive the COVID vaccine and, according to the county’s data, only 62% of Clark County’s residents are fully vaccinated.

We now have more than five times the number of COVID cases per day in this country than we did last Memorial Day, but we rarely hear any of our officials talking about precautions, mitigations or measures to help lower our local transmission rates these days. As reported by Beckers Hospital Review this week: “COVID-19 hospitalizations are up 20 percent nationwide over the last 14 days, with 45 states and Washington, D.C., reporting an increase. Nationwide, COVID-19 cases increased 14 percent over the past 14 days, according to HHS data collected by The New York Times.” 

In Washington state, COVID hospitalizations are up 31% from just two weeks ago. The same goes for Oregon. In Clark County, 15% of our intensive care beds are currently occupied by COVID patients, compared to 7% statewide. 

This week, Clark County Public Health posted the results from a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report on its social media channels showing that one in five adults ages 18-64 “have at least one health condition that may be attributed to their previous COVID-19 infection … (including) neurologic and mental health conditions, kidney failure, musculoskeletal conditions, cardiovascular conditions, respiratory conditions and blood clots and other vascular issues.” 

“The report showed COVID-19 survivors have twice the risk for developing pulmonary embolism or respiratory conditions,” our local health department noted in its Facebook post. “The findings showed that COVID-19 survivors were significantly more likely to have health conditions that may be attributed to their COVID-19 diagnosis.”
In other words – the more we find out about what the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 actually is doing to our bodies in the long-term, the worse it seems to get. 

And yet, most of our officials – on national, state, city and school district levels – have gone radio silent about the dangers of COVID, the risks of long COVID, the fact that people are being reinfected with COVID and the mitigations we still need to be taking to prevent even more community spread. JEERS to that. 

We understand that people want to move on from COVID. And it is especially those of us who got our vaccines and boosters and wore our masks and kept our distance from our loved ones for so long during the first waves of this pandemic to know that we have to keep pushing. But the simple fact remains that COVID is still circulating in our community. It is still harming our neighbors and loved ones. JEERS to continuing to pretend like COVID is gone. We cannot afford to keep turning our backs on proven mitigation measures like wearing quality N95 or KN95 masks in public spaces (especially indoors) while COVID is surging and it’s time for our elected officials to help the greater community realize that COVID is not just a “common cold” or even a seasonal flu, but is, as research now shows, a disease capable of doing real long-term damage to at least one in five survivors.