Clark County Public Health Officer Dr. Alan Melnick is slightly concerned about Clark County’s recent uptick in cases.
On Tuesday, Public Health confirmed nine new COVID-19 cases, and no new deaths. On Monday, the county confirmed 17 COVID-19 cases, which included positive tests from over the weekend.
The county has 656 confirmed cases and 28 deaths to date. At least 13,884 people have been tested for the virus in Clark County.
Washington and 17 other U.S. states are starting to see upticks in their case counts. New modeling from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington shows the COVID-19 death count is expected to reach 200,000 by October — an increase of 30,000 deaths since last week’s projection.
The U.S. has more than 116,000 COVID-19 deaths, which have mostly happened in the last three months, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If the U.S. reaches 200,000 COVID-19 deaths by October, the virus will have vaulted to a tally that would likely make it the third leading annual cause of death in the U.S. behind heart disease and cancer. And it would have done so in less than a year.
Some states, including Texas and Alabama, have also started to see their medical infrastructure stressed with COVID-19 patients.
“I am concerned,” Melnick said. “As we open up more, what’s the impact going to be?”
Since Memorial Day, Clark County has seen around a 39 percent increase in cases, but most of those have been tied to workplace outbreaks at Firestone Pacific Foods in Vancouver and Pacific Crest Building Supply in Ridgefield. There are 132 confirmed cases connected to Firestone employees and close contacts, and 15 Clark County cases tied to Pacific Crest, which is still awaiting testing and test results for 29 employees.
In the last week, however, there has been an uptick in community transmission. Since June 6, Clark County has added 85 cases, and only a handful are connected to Pacific Crest.
In order to reach Phase 3, which the county could enter near the end of this month, Clark County will need to show positive trends for case counts, hospitalizations and other metrics. Clark County needs to be near 125 cases over a 14-day period to satisfy one metric. The county has had 100 cases in the last two weeks.
Clark County hospitalizations rose from four on Friday to 11 Monday, and increasing case counts can indicate an upcoming rise in hospitalizations and deaths.
Melnick said the rising case counts are likely tied to increased activity in the community, as areas begin to reopen and loosen restrictions. He also believes some people are becoming lax in their adherence to keeping physical distance and wearing masks in public areas.
Melnick said he has confidence in Public Health’s ability to identify cases, investigate transmission and notify close contacts so they can isolate themselves. Public Health has received a staffing boost from the California nonprofit Public Health Institute to contain outbreaks. Some Public Health Institute staff is already in place, and by the end of the week, Public Health Institute is expected to have 18 people working on COVID-19 response in Clark County.
For the first time in weeks, Public Health can now actively monitor close contacts of confirmed cases, which means calling them each day to check on the potential development of coronavirus symptoms.
But Melnick still urges the public to follow safety precautions if they desire even fewer restrictions.
“People are out and about now,” Melnick said. “I wish there were a more universal appreciation of physical distancing and mask-wearing. We want to get to the point where we’re opening up, but I would plead with people that those are things that keep the numbers down so we can move along.”