Health District sees declining COVID numbers

By Richard Uhlhorn

On Monday, September 21, the Chelan-Douglas Health District Board of Commissioners met in a Zoom meeting to discuss recent developments

Commission Chair Dan Sutton introduced the new Interim Director of the Health District, Nathan Weed, who is an employee of thte State Department of Health on loan until December 12 while the District continues its search for a permanent director.

Weed has been in the health industry for a number of years and is currently the Incident Commander of the Office of Rural Health. “You reached out to me and I agreed to do this,” said Weed. He has worked for the Clark County Department of Health, in the Baton Rouge area of Louisiana, and as a firefighter/EMTin Wyoming.

Weed will serve fulltime as the interim director until December and said he may have to run back and forth a little bit, but will remain fully available electronically at times.

Dr. Malcolm Butler invited the CDC to the meeting and they were on-line at the meeting, headed up by Dr. Monterraso who has been in the health industry for the past 29 years working globally. “I was brought back from Africa,” said Dr. Monterraso. “I am now working to understand COVID dynamics.” This will include mitigation efforts of COVID. The team of doctors with Dr. Monterraso will be conducting phone surveys in both East Wenatchee and Wenatchee with those who have recovered from the virus. He will report back to the board at their October 2 meeting.

Dr. Butler expressed his gratitude to the team. “I have not known what way to turn in our community,” he said.

He reported that there has been seven new mortaliites in the last month. (See graph). The mortalities are all above the age of 59 and all had other medical issues.

The big news is that the incidence of new cases is going down. “We are at one to two percent which is quite low. If we can prove it is that low, we can get more classrooms open,” said Butler.

Butler reported that a lot of community testing has gone on in North Central Washington communities. “The positives are going down to around six percent.” The age breakdown has the over 70 community well insulated with those in the age group of 20 to 39 being the most probable cases. “The majority of cases is still in agriculture,” said Butler. (see graph).

Dr. Butler said that Masking compliance has dropped down to about 66 percent (70 percent in businesses). “It is worse in smaller communities. Our target is to have 80 percent compliance.” Butler encouraged everyone to continue to bang the drum for masking.

Two agriculture facilities went over the threshold and had to shut down for a complete cleaning. A number of infected employees went into quarantine and are receiving health checks twice a day.

“It is hard to describe the care our schools are taking with this issue… it is impressive,” said Butler. “If the prevalence in East Wenatchee and Wenatchee continues at 1 to 2 percent, we will be able to move into a hybrid teaching model.”

Commissioner Doug England asked about safety plans for schools and was interested in Manson’s K-5th grade. Butler said the tests came back at one percent.

Commission Chair Sutton said, “It’s important for the community to understand that getting kids back in school has to be done in the safest manner possible.”

Sharon Waters asked Dr. Butler if he has had any Ah Ha moments during the pandemic. Butler replied that he was surprised at how different COVID is than influenza and how under resourced Chelan-Douglas Health District was.

Dr. Peter Houk, who has been helping mitigate the virus, said that just because the new cases were dropping steadily, the District needs to avoid becoming complacent. “The rate of decline has leveled off and citizens need to continue being careful.”

Dr. Monterroso added that the incidence of positive cases are going up at universities and colleges around the nation. “Name the state and the cases are up dramatically,” he said. He blames those burgeoning numbers of the fact that college students are partying and not observing safety procedures like social distancing and masking. “When it gets colder the numbers will go up again,” he said.

Interim director Nate Weed ended the meeting by telling the board and staff that he was there at their request. “I want you to know that you can reach out… feel free to guide me. I’ll be here until December 9 or so depending on the hiring of a fulltime administrator.”

Butler reported that a lot of community testing has gone on in North Central Washington communities. “The positives are going down to around six percent.” The age breakdown has the over 70 community well insulated with those in the age group of 20 to 39 being the most probable cases. “The majority of cases is still in agriculture,” said Butler.

Dr. Butler said that Masking compliance has dropped down to about 66 percent (70 percent in businesses). “It is worse in smaller communities. Our target is to have 80 percent compliance.” Butler encouraged everyone to continue to bang the drum for masking.

Two agriculture facilities went over the threshold and had to shut down for a complete cleaning. A number of infected employees went into quarantine and are receiving health checks twice a day.

“It is hard to describe the care our schools are taking with this issue… it is impressive,” said Butler. “If the prevalence in East Wenatchee and Wenatchee continues at 1 to 2 percent, we will be able to move into a hybrid teaching model.”

Commissioner Doug England asked about safety plans for schools and was interested in Manson’s K-5th grade. Butler said the tests came back at one percent.

Commission Chair Sutton said, “It’s important for the community to understand that getting kids back in school has to be done in the safest manner possible.”

Sharon Waters asked Dr. Butler if he has had any Ah Ha moments during the pandemic. Butler replied that he was surprised at how different COVID is than influenza and how under resourced Chelan-Douglas Health District was.

Dr. Peter Houk, who has been helping mitigate the virus, said that just because the new cases were dropping steadily, the District needs to avoid becoming complacent. “The rate of decline has leveled off and citizens need to continue being careful.”

Dr. Monterroso added that the incidence of positive cases are going up at universities and colleges around the nation. “Name the state and the cases are up dramatically,” he said. He blames those burgeoning numbers of the fact that college students are partying and not observing safety procedures like social distancing and masking. “When it gets colder the numbers will go up again,” he said.

Interim director Nate Weed ended the meeting by telling the board and staff that he was there at their request. “I want you to know that you can reach out… feel free to guide me. I’ll be here until December 9 or so depending on the hiring of a fulltime administrator.”

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