COVID-19 focus shifts back to older population

Although state and county data from a few weeks ago demonstrated an increase in COVID-19 cases for people in their 20s, most recent data shows a broader population of people in the older generations now beginning to feel the impact of the virus again.

Island County Public Health Director Keith Higman said the county has been continuing to see an increase, but it’s not a large outbreak or spike like in other parts of the state.

This past month, two infants tested positive for the virus, Higman said. Older groups of people, however, are now being affected again in the county, which is consistent with the results of the latest statewide study by the Institute of Disease Modeling, released July 23.

Higman described an uptick in cases in the county beginning in the last week of June, which have continued at a “pretty steady pace” since then. He estimates that there is an increase of an average of 12 to 15 cases every week now.

As of Friday morning, the number of new cases on Whidbey is 184, with 232 total in the county. At the beginning of July, the total number of cases for the county was below 200.

Those closely monitoring the county’s web page for COVID-19 case counts may have noticed the death toll increase by one, but Higman said that was the result of an error in the information from the Washington State Department of Health.

“It was a surprise on our end when we received the data,” Higman said.

A person associated with a long-term care facility who tested positive for the virus months ago died recently, but the person’s cause of death was not COVID-19. The patient had since recovered from the virus and was no longer showing symptoms upon their death, so it had not been listed on the death certificate and, therefore, didn’t count as part of the COVID-19 death toll for the county.

In order for a death to be counted as part of the COVID-19 death toll, Higman said two things need to happen. First, the individual must have tested positive for the virus, and second, it needs to be listed as the cause of death on his or her death certificate.

The totals have since been adjusted to reflect the true numbers. Whidbey has 10 deaths recorded and Camano Island has one, Higman said.

He continues to caution against non-essential travel and encourages residents to wear masks and avoid congregating to minimize the risk of exposure to the virus.

COVID-19 testing is still available at WhidbeyHealth locations. To sign up to get swabbed, call 360-240-4055 in advance to schedule a time.

The Island County Board of Health will be hosting a special meeting next week at 10 a.m. on Aug. 6 to discuss and possibly take action on additional measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, according to the agenda.

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