by Richard Uhlhorn
Schools will not be allowed to open if the
COVID surge is not flattened
Dr. Malcolm Butler, Chelan-Douglas Health District’s (CDHD) health officer, reported to the CDHD Board of Directors that COVID-19 cases have surged. “School re-opening is unlikely unless collective behavioral changes take place,” he reported. “You can see in both counties increases and then those counts started dropping off. When re-opening on June 10 began, the cases shot up dramatically.”
He reported that once the economy reopened, mobility increased amongst residents and others. He also reported that testing increased in late June-early July, but even with the testing increase, it alone has not been the reason for more positives.
The demographics show that those within the 20 to 49 age working group are sharing the burden of the disease. The demographic of younger children up to four and five year olds is also affected by Coronavirus. “It is very clearly affecting children,” said Dr. Butler. “Our Hispanic members make up 70 to 80 percent of those affected,” he added.
He said the latest fatality was a 69 year old female who contracted the virus at work despite the safeguards, went to the ER on July1, tested positive and sent home to quarantine. Six days later she was admitted to the ICU and intubated. She passed away on July 15.
Testing times for the virus has doubled in the last two weeks to four or five days to get results back. “Some of these larger labs use reagents for those big (testing) machines and are having a hard time getting them,” said Butler. So the testing has been shifted to smaller laboratories.
He would like to see 100 percent of workers in all sectors masked and at least 80 percent of consumers masked. “I’m very impressed with our local efforts and I expect to see an impact of masking by August.
Dr. Weisman, State DOH, has stated that if the current trend continues, schools will not be able to open in the Fall. “All of whom are working diligently at reopening plans will have to prioritize. We need to make educators essential workers and we are not going to be able to reopen schools without PPE. Schools can be an accelerate and do attract and spread COVID,” said Butler. He stated that when the disease burden is high, students become spreaders and take it home to their families.
His analogy was that the virus is like a wildfire. When wind hits a wildfire, it spreads quickly.
Dr. Butler reported that overall mobility (travel) is a problem and the area needs to enforce travel restrictions. “Essential travel and very limited non-essential travel needs to happen. It is not OK to drive to Montana and it is not OK for the entirety of Seattle (area) to come over to Chelan and Leavenworth,” said Butler. “I do have concerns of people visiting Chelan and Leavenworth and I cannot explain why State Parks aren’t limiting people.”
CDHD’s interim director, Bruce Buckles, said that the current situation is extremely challenging. “We are challenged by anxiety. Nothing has affected our life since the 1918 Flu epidemic,” Buckle said.
Buckles said closing down businesses has a tremendous social affect on our economy and is of great concern. “The answers are not simple. We need to be very cautious about our behavior.” Buckles stated that society can’t drop its guard. “Our efforts have to be a society as a unifying group.” He said grocery stores and the agricultural community has done an extraordinary job preparing their workers to be careful and considerate. “Without a high level of consciousness our numbers are going to continue to ramp up.”
“I think we are going to have to engage in a messaging campaign. When you drive by parks and beaches, many are not wearing masks,” said Butler. Social distancing is also important to ramping the virus down.