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An Asian giant hornet prepares for takeoff after state Department of Agriculture entomologists tied a radio tracking device to it. The tracker worked — for a while.

COVID-19 | Community testing since August shows 1.7% positive case rate

NCW — Mass COVID-19 testing in communities across Chelan and Douglas counties since mid-August found 77 positive cases out of 4,500 tests conducted, a 1.7% positive case count rate.

The positive case rate has been around the 1% mark consistently since September, according to a Chelan-Douglas Health District news release. Except for one outbreak in Leavenworth the health district identified where it jumped to 3.4%.

The 1.7% rate is about where the statewide average is likely at, said Dr. Peter Houck, a Chelan-Douglas Health District epidemiologist. But people should be careful drawing conclusions using this data, Houck said, as the 13 community mass testing wasn’t meant to estimate the percentage of people with the virus.

“The real reason is to find as many people, who are infected. Isolate them so they don’t transmit the infection to other people. Find their contacts, quarantine their contacts to see if they develop disease. And keep any of the contacts who develop disease from spreading it to someone else,” Houck said. “That’s the real reason for doing the testing.”

The problem with the data from the mass testing events is it’s a convenience sample, he said. Health officials are testing anyone who shows up and is willing to get tested. They do not know if the people tested represent the population as a whole.

To accurately figure out the rate of infection in the community health officials would need to take a random sample, Houck said. They would need to randomly select households and ask them to get tested.

“That’s a convenient sample, because it’s easy to do, it’s not statistically representative and the problem you can have, if you are not careful, your convenience sample can give you wildly wrong numbers,” he said.

Health district officials are using the testing, though, to notice spikes that can identify outbreaks, Houck said.

The testing in Leavenworth from Sept. 8-11 revealed an outbreak in a packing house, according to the news release. Health district officials had people isolate and quarantine in response.

The community of Peshastin also appeared to have a rather large amount with a 7% positive rate, but that was because there were four positives out of only 53 tests, Houck said.

“I’m making this up again, but those four cases in Peshastin could have all been in one family and there could have been zero disease in the rest of the community,” Houck said.

The health district plans to continue testing communities throughout the two counties so people with the virus can isolate and health officials can trace the people they were in contact with, according to the news release.

Anyone aware of large areas where drive-through testing can occur can contact the health district at imt.osc@cdhd.wa.gov.

People can also use that email to inquire about helping with testing by volunteering.

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Lincoln Park improvements continue | Share playground ideas at drive-thru meeting Wednesday

WENATCHEE — Slides, spinners, seesaws, a zip line, a pirate ship, maybe? Community members of all ages who have ideas on what they would like to see included in Lincoln Park’s new playground are invited to speak their piece at a family-friendly, social-distance-enabled drive-thru meeting Wednesday.

The Wenatchee Parks Department is hosting the event, from 4 to 6 p.m., at the park, 1410 S. Mission St. A drive-up lane will be set up on the Parkway Avenue side of the park, on the south side near the picnic shelter.

"We will have the playground manufacturer on site with display boards of the types of play equipment that might go in to the park," said David Erickson, the city's parks, recreation and cultural services director. "We are hoping people that drive by will provide feedback on which pieces they like the best so that the final design of the play area may be completed."

Designers from Pacific Engineering also will be on hand to answer questions about the playground and other park projects.

Playground construction is expected to start next year, part of a $3.1 million park-wide improvement project that will include a soccer field, splash pad, pump track, second picnic shelter, new stage, new restrooms and safety fencing. Parking lots also will be resurfaced and striped. The hope is the entire project will be completed in 2022. The final cost is still be tabulated. It was estimated last fall at $2.1 million.

"It will continue to be refined as we move through the design process," Erickson said.

The 22-acre park, which sits between South Mission and South Methow streets, bordered by Crawford Avenue on the north and Parkway Avenue on the south, has been losing structures for the past few years. Developed in 1969, restrooms, a picnic shelter, band shell and stage were added in the 1970s. Two decades later, in 1996, 1,600 volunteers built the Rotary Play Village in an intense five-day project.

Time took its toll. Trees were knocked down in a 2007 windstorm. The band shell was deemed unsafe and demolished 2016, leaving an open cement stage. The picnic shelter was torn down the next year. By then plans were in the works for replacements. A 1,500-square-foot picnic shelter, twice the size of the original, was put up in 2018 and the city started applying for state and federal grants to pay for the rest.

The city removed the volunteer-built wooden play structure last fall to make way for the new playground. Community feedback from Wednesday’s open house will help finalize the design for the new steel and plastic replacement that will be more open for safety and security, according to city postings.

The city has received grants to help pay for the improvements, including $520,600 in federal funds and two grants totaling $763,192 from the state Recreation and Conservation Office. Two grant requests are still pending with Chelan County, Erickson said. Local organizations including the Rotary Club, Fiestas Mexicanas and the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance also are contributing.

This past week, parks department crews planted 17 flowering pear trees along Parkway Avenue and more throughout the park, replacing some of the trees that were blown down. More trees will be planted after the other park projects are completed.

For details on the park, the playground or the meeting, check out the parks department’s Facebook page, or the website, wwrld.us/cityparks.

Phase 2 means all public libraries in area will reopen Nov. 2

WENATCHEE — NCW Libraries planned to open its 19 branches in Grant, Okanogan and Ferry counties on Nov. 2, but the 10 libraries in Chelan and Douglas counties would have to remain closed because those counties were still in Phase 1.5.

However, on Tuesday, Gov. Jay Inslee announced that Chelan and Douglas counties would be moving to Phase 2, which meant the libraries in Chelan and Douglas counties could open on Nov. 2 along with the other branch locations in the NCW Libraries system.

“We were really hoping to open all the libraries at the same time. We were disappointed to have to do just three counties and not Chelan and Douglas. Being able to do them all at the same time is really nice for us. Our staff is pretty excited,” said NCW Libraries spokeswoman Michelle McNiel.

Libraries in Chelan County include Wenatchee, Cashmere, Peshastin, Leavenworth, Chelan, Entiat and Manson. Libraries in Douglas County include East Wenatchee, Waterville and Bridgeport.

NCW Libraries locations have been shut down since spring, though many opened for curbside service and mail order on Sept. 14.

“It’s going to be really spread out between people coming into the library, people doing curbside and people doing mail order,” McNiel said. “It will be interesting to see what people are using the most. Right now, mail order is the thing. Everybody is using that. With the libraries open, will people be rushing back into the buildings?”

Since the COVID-related closure in the spring, the Wenatchee Public Library has been remodeled. No one has seen it except employees and Wenatchee World Photo Editor Don Seabrook, McNiel said.

“It will be fun for the staff to be in the newly remodeled space with other people. It will be fun to see the reactions,” she said. “It has a new look. It is set up more for digital use. There are more plug-ins and better lighting. Lots more places for people to sit, but maybe not now because we’re not geared up for people hanging out.”

The bathrooms are nicer and there are new meeting spaces. McNiel said some amenities cannot be used right now because people cannot gather.

Computer use is usually a big draw at the Wenatchee Public Library.

“Those are spread out. Those are things people come in and use frequently. That and the printers. Those aren’t tied around a specific time. We won’t really know until we open if there are some pinch points we have to address,” she said.

Only 25% of capacity is allowed in the building. Plus, patrons can only stay in the library for 30 minutes. McNiel said those things might be tricky to enforce.

“People are coming into the library throughout the day. If we had a program, you might have 30-40 people there at one time. All of our programs will still be virtual for now,” she said.

Many people come into the library to hang out, she said, so 30 minutes might be pushing it.

“People would come in for storytime and hang out, look for books, chat with friends. Since we aren’t having those types of things, it might be easier. For some people, this is a social place. They want to hang out. That will be interesting,” McNeil said.

As for staffing, the librarians are back in the buildings but so far, not the assistant librarians, she said.

The NCW Libraries' Community Bookmobile started back up this week

Wenatchee Women’s March attendees make their way through Memorial Park to Chelan Ave. as they begin their march on Saturday morning.

World photo/Don Seabrook Eastmont senior Logan West returns a volley during tennis practice Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020.

Wenatchee moves up plans to bring students back to school

WENATCHEE — Early results from the community-wide COVID testing has prompted officials in the Wenatchee School District to move ahead with plans to bring back preschool through second-grade students.

At the Wenatchee School Board meeting on Tuesday, bringing students back sometime in November was discussed, but now the plan is to bring the youngest students back on Nov. 2.

More than 4,500 people participated in the community testing the first week, which started Oct. 6 and has continued for two weeks. Wenatchee Superintendent Paul Gordon said this will give the district a better understanding the prevalence of COVID in the community.

“The first week’s results indicate there is a roughly 1% infection rate within the community, which gives us better confidence in opening our school doors for our preschool through second-grade students,” Gordon said. “We do that with the knowledge we are going to be following all of the health district recommendations around safety protocols, masking, social distancing, washing hands.”

Gordon said the district was hopeful the test results would provide the data needed to move up its plans. The big revelation, Gordon said, came with the understanding between incident testing and prevalent testing.

“Incident testing is focused on people who think they are sick or have been around someone who has COVID. Naturally, those numbers are going to be higher. The testing that occurred in the WHS parking lot was prevalent testing,” he said. “What is the amount of COVID in the general community? We thought it was going to give us a better opportunity to open, but we did not know.”

When Gov. Jay Inslee moved Chelan County to Phase 2 on Tuesday, that meant school districts no longer needed approval from local health districts to move forward with plans, Gordon said. 

Gordon said he values the relationship with the Chelan-Douglas Health District and desires to continue working with the agency. He said CDHD has been fantastic to work with and has helped guide the school district.

“We’re really good in the educational field, but this is a health crisis. It’s important to lean into the medical experts and we have. One of those individuals that have continued to guide us is Dr. Malcom Butler,” Gordon said. “He really has helped our decision making through this process.”

Even though at Phase 2, Gordon said he is going to rely on the medical experts for the best guidance possible.

Tuesday’s school board meeting outlined the many plans the school district has made toward opening schools to students. Gordon said readiness is the key.

Paul Gordon

Wenatchee superintendent

“We’ve been planning for this to make sure we are ready to go for our students, staff, so everyone has confidence in what we’re doing and how we’re going to proceed,” he said.

It is expected the vast majority of the 1,500 PreK-2 students to be back at school on Nov. 2. WSD Communication Director Diana Haglund said the district conducted a survey of K-2 families several weeks ago about their comfort level returning students to classrooms for hybrid learning.

Approximately 95% of the respondents indicated they planned for their child to attend in-person hybrid instruction. District officials favor the A-B model of hybrid instruction where one group of students studies online in the morning and at school in the afternoon, while another group of students attends school in the morning and studies online at home in the afternoon. 

“Families that are not comfortable returning their children to the classroom for daily hybrid instruction are being given the option of continuing with full-time online learning by transferring to the Wenatchee Internet Academy (WIA) to continue learning online for the remainder of the school year,” Haglund said Friday in an email.

Families will need to complete an in-district transfer form and contact WIA at 509-888-5222 for enrollment by Oct. 27.

The next set of students to come back to school will be third, fourth and fifth grade. Gordon said they must wait three weeks after Nov. 2 for that to happen.

“That is leaning into the medical experts. Really what it is about is observing the protocols, ensuring we’re not getting the infection breakouts within our groups of students or staff members, then being really purposeful about our next steps,” Gordon said. “We feel that is the safest way to move forward.”

In the coming weeks, Gordon said the school district will be doing an immense amount of communication to get the word out to parents about hybrid learning. He said the district will still use the parent-teacher conferences at the end of the month to have a one-on-one conversation about what hybrid looks like for them, specifically preschool through second grade.