WENATCHEE — “We are completely on the defensive,” said Health Officer Dr. Malcolm Butler about local COVID-19 rates that have doubled just about every week due to the delta variant, resulting in the highest infection rates in 2021.
As of Aug. 5, the Chelan-Douglas Health District recorded a rate of 699 new cases per 100,000 in the last 14 days for Chelan County, Butler told the district board Monday. It’s the highest rate since Dec. 20 when the rate was about 723 per 100,000, according to state Department of Health data.
The highest COVID-rate throughout this pandemic in Chelan County was about 974 per 100,000 on Dec. 2, according to state data.
In Douglas County, the health district also reported 713 per 100,000 new cases in the last 14 days for Aug. 5, the highest COVID-19 rate since Dec. 15. The all-time highest COVID-rate for the county was about 845 per 100,000 on Dec. 10.
At Central Washington Hospital, about 29 people were hospitalized Monday due to COVID-19, according to Confluence Health’s COVID-19 webpage. Two of those patients are in the intensive care unit.
The highest total COVID-19 hospitalization count at the hospital was 44 between Dec. 10 and Dec. 13, according to data collected by The Wenatchee World.
Of the 29 COVID-19 patients now at the hospital, 14 are critically ill which means that they’ve been diagnosed with acute respiratory distress syndrome, cardiac dysfunction, or a cytokine storm, according to Butler.
A cytokine storm is an aggressive inflammatory response that results in the release of a large amount of cytokines, a protein important in cell signaling, which can lead to lung injury or multi-organ failure, according to National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Critically ill patients require intensive respiratory support, Butler said.
Among the critically ill, none are fully vaccinated. In total, about four of the patients are under the age of 30, Butler said. Local health officials have not seen hospitalizations skew so young before, he said. Two of the patients are in their 20s and another two are in their 30s.
Three patients hospitalized at Central Washington Hospital, not in critical condition, had been vaccinated against COVID-19. Two of these individuals are immunocompromised and a third improved quickly, Butler said.
“Vaccines remain profoundly productive,” Butler said. The health district has observed a surge in vaccine demand due to concerns around the delta variant and Gov. Jay Inslee’s vaccine mandate, according to Butler.
The health district also did not report any COVID-deaths in July, he said.
COVID-19 testing at Columbia Valley Community Health has also increased tenfold, Butler said. CVCH would test about 5 to 10 patients a few weeks ago but numbers have since gone up to 100 patients a day.
CVCH has begun shutting down outpatient procedures and diverting resources to testing, Butler said.
Nine long-term care centers have experienced COVID-19 outbreaks, the total count at 10 positive cases among staff members and 15 among residents, according to Butler. Three residents were hospitalized, he said.
Butler said that many of his unvaccinated patients choose not to get vaccinated because they are young, healthy, and think they will do fine even if they end up getting hospitalized.
“It’s important to understand that severe illness of COVID has two phases,” Butler said. “We get ill, then we get more ill and our immune system goes crazy. When this (cytokine) storm hits, your immune system has taken the position that every organ in your body is the enemy, and it starts attacking everything. At that point, no medication will help. Younger people have done better, but please do not rely on a medication saving you once you get sick enough to be in the hospital. That’s a dangerous game to play.”
These locations have experienced COVID-19 outbreaks as well since July 19:
- Four agricultural facilities with a total four cases. Butler said that there is no evidence of broad spread like what was seen in facilities during summer 2020.
- Schools have had some cases but no transmission has occurred while students are at schools, Butler said.
- Two local businesses with 15 cases.
Two local homeless shelters with testing still ongoing.
“For any mandates to be impactful, we must impose them now,” Butler said. The health district has already issued guidance for universal masking while indoors and has provided recommendations for large events to follow, he said.
Chelan County offices will officially make masking mandatory while inside their buildings soon, said Kevin Overbay, Chelan County commissioner.