Clark County’s COVID-19 activity rate increased this week after decreasing slightly last week. The rate has been steadily rising over the past few weeks, causing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to put Clark County at medium risk for disease transmission.
The COVID-19 activity rate, which measures new cases per 100,000 population over seven days, rose from 159.1 last week to 196.1 as of Thursday, according to Clark County Public Health data.
The rise in disease activity could be attributed to omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, according to Dr. Katie Sharff, chief of Infectious Disease for Kaiser Permanente in Portland.
“So many people are getting COVID-19 right now because BA.4 is the dominant variant in Oregon, and these subvariants are the most contagious that we have seen in the pandemic,” Sharff said. “BA.4 and BA.5 are masters of immune evasion, which increases risk of reinfection, even if you are fully vaccinated or previously had a COVID-19 infection.”
New hospitalizations this week fell from 10.6 to 9.8 per 100,000 residents over seven days, but overall hospitalizations remain high, according to Public Health.
As of Tuesday, 95.2 percent of Clark County hospital beds and 100 percent of ICU beds were occupied. Hospitals reported that 62 beds — accounting for 11.4 percent of hospital beds and 11.3 percent of ICU beds — were occupied by people with or suspected of having COVID-19, according to Public Health.
Those trends have raised the CDC’s Community Levels rating for Clark County to medium, reflecting the county’s current number of cases, hospitalizations and overall hospital occupancy.
Recommendations for residents of medium-risk counties include staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and getting tested if you have symptoms. Masks are not required in medium-risk counties, though masks and social distancing are still recommended for people at high risk for serious illness. People who are exposed to COVID-19 or who are showing symptoms are still required to follow quarantine guidelines.
All but six Washington counties are at either medium risk or high risk this week.
Six new deaths from COVID-19 were reported this week. The deaths include one woman in her 60s, one man and two women in their 70s and two women age 80 or older.
The new deaths push the total number of people who have died from COVID-19 in Clark County to 851. Deaths are typically added to the county’s total 10 to 12 days after they occur.
Public Health reported 1,044 new cases this week, for 98,772 to date. The actual number of new cases is likely much higher due to unreported, positive at-home tests, according to Clark County Public Health officials.
If you test positive for COVID-19 with an at-home test, you can call the state’s COVID-19 hotline at 1-800-525-0127 to report your positive result.
“People who weren’t previously infected with COVID are getting it now, and people who have already had COVID-19 are also getting reinfected,” Sharff said. “For many, symptoms are mild and can be managed at home with rest and hydration. However, for elderly, immunocompromised and higher risk individuals, we do have treatments available to reduce the risk of severe disease and hospitalization. Home antigen testing can be helpful to confirm infection, but it is important to remember the limitations of these antigen tests. A negative result does not always mean you are in the free and clear.”
The Washington State Department of Health reported that as of Monday, 63 percent of Clark County residents age 6 months or older were fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Food and Drug Administration recently authorized both Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as 6 months old.
Here are ways you can find a vaccine location near you: