Clark County Public Health announced one new coronavirus case and one new death Tuesday morning.
It is the first death since April 27. Clark County now has 368 cases and 22 deaths.
A woman who was 80 or older is the latest person to die of the virus in Clark County. Fifteen of the people who have died were 80 or older. Six of the deaths have been women and 16 have been men.
As of Tuesday, at least 4,939 people had been tested for the virus in Clark County.
There were 12 people hospitalized for the virus locally as of Monday. Two were in an intensive care unit.
There are 71 cases in long-term care facilities in Clark County.
Washington has 15,462 cases and 841 deaths.
On Monday, Clark County Public Health notified local medical providers of new testing recommendations and protocol.
The advisory said that Public Health is now recommending testing for “all patients with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 as early in their illness as possible.”
Testing criteria has expanded to include more people as testing capacity has expanded.
The advisory also said that rapid testing, which is done on site at a provider’s office, has produced a higher rate of false negatives compared with tests that are sent to laboratories for processing. In cases where a rapid test produces a negative result, but the provider is skeptical of its accuracy, providers are asked to collect specimens for a second test at a laboratory to confirm the negative result, Clark County Public Health Officer Dr. Alan Melnick said.
There have also been concerns over providers not reporting negative results from rapid tests, which have recently become more common in Clark County. Positive tests are automatically reported to Clark County Public Health, but the advisory stresses that providers need to track and send negative results to the Washington Department of Health.
Clark County’s overall testing figure is a combination of positive and negative test results. It’s an undercount, because not all providers have been reporting negative test results.
Melnick said there previously has not been a system in place for reporting negative tests of other viruses, so providers are trying to set up systems for that while juggling other things.
“They have more challenges in terms of work flow and reporting,” he said.
Clark County Councilor Gary Medvigy is concerned that under-reporting of negative test results keeps important data from the state.
Gov. Jay Inslee has said he’d like to see Washington increase its testing capacity to about 22,000 people per day. Washington has been topping out around 6,000 tests per day, according to Department of Health data.
Medvigy wants to see better reporting of negative tests, so the governor has a more accurate idea of tests per day, which he factors into decisions around easing physical distancing in Washington.
“If we’re only getting the active positive tests, it’s not capturing how many tests we are doing per day. If it’s happening in Clark County, it’s happening in other counties as well,” Medvigy said. “We need to get this data right. We need to get it accurate, so the governor has a good picture of what is happening.”
Melnick agreed that tracking negative tests, and more complete data, are important. He said the plan is to improve that process moving forward but stressed that positive tests are the key right now.
“In terms of controlling the pandemic, all we need is every positive test,” Melnick said. “While the negative tests are important, it does not tell us much in terms of controlling the outbreak. The best way to open everything up is to control the pandemic.”