“If you travel about the country, as I just did to visit my dad in Ohio, the coronavirus pandemic feels a lot like it does now here in Seattle: Like old news.
But you don’t have to look any farther than Walla Walla to see that COVID-19 is anything but past tense.
“In June, Walla Walla County had more positive COVID cases than April and May combined,” the health district in that southeast Washington county warned the other day.
Now July is already running worse than June. Walla Walla is “one of three counties in the state that the CDC has classified as a high level of transmission,” health officials said, before adding, plaintively: “Wear a mask and watch out for those around you!”
Few are doing the mask-wearing and social-distancing thing anymore. We’re done with a pandemic that is not done with us.
Those three counties referred to above — Walla Walla, Benton and Franklin — had, as of Monday, the highest current COVID rates of any counties on the West Coast, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
Walla Walla is reporting its recent 14-day rate as 334 cases per 100,000 population — a disease spread that not long ago could have landed the county into a Phase 2 restriction of businesses and events (not anymore though, as the whole state is now 100% open).
The Benton-Franklin County Health District said Tuesday that 34 people are hospitalized there with COVID-19 — more than are hospitalized in Seattle, and a rate, when adjusted for population, that’s double the national average. (It’s still shy of the hospitalization rates in the nation’s most hard-hit places, which are currently Missouri, Nevada, Arkansas, Florida and Mississippi).
At the district’s main testing site in Pasco, 11% of the tests are coming back positive, a rate epidemiologists say can signal unchecked community spread of the virus.
What’s happening is as simple as it is frustrating: Only about half, or fewer, of the eligible people in these counties have gotten vaccinated. In Walla Walla, where 45% of the 62,500 residents have been fully vaxxed, 90% of the recent COVID patients hadn’t gotten the shot, health officials said.
Our state is also now reporting that the delta variant, the one that’s coursing through states like Mississippi (where seven children are in the ICU), has made up 54% of the sequenced cases in the past two weeks.
I bring all this up to say: We had our chance to stomp down the coronavirus. We didn’t do it. We blew it.”