Cowlitz County reported six new COVID-19 cases Friday, bringing the total to 169.
The number of recovered cases is now up to 74, according to the Cowlitz COVID-19 Incident Management Team. One Cowlitz County COVID-19 patient is hospitalized outside the county.
The county has reported 37 new cases this week, a 28% increase from last week.
Health department staff are putting in “substantial” extra hours during the week and on the weekends to keep up with the increase in cases, said Carole Harrison, Health and Human Services interim director. Because of this overtime, the staff is able to keep up on case tracking and contact tracing in a timely way, she said.
Case tracking and contact tracing help officials monitor and combat the spread of the virus. Public health staff interview COVID patients about their symptoms, where they’ve been and who they’ve been around. They notify close contacts who may have been exposed and ask them to isolate for 14 days.
The department is hiring two grant-supported temporary public health nurses who will be dedicated to COVID-19 cases and contacts, Harrison said. Currently the county’s four public health nurses and other department staff are balancing the pandemic with their regular work. The county commissioners last week approved the positions through the end of the year.
The recent spike in cases has also put plans to move to Phase 3 and further reopen the local economy on pause.
One of the metrics for moving to Phase 3 of the governor’s reopening plan is case and contact investigations. The state’s goal is for health departments to contact 90% of cases within 24 hours of a positive result. Ideally, all contacts should be reached within 48 hours of a positive result.
The county health department will monitor the situation and work with the state to move forward in two weeks, according to a press release.
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