OKANOGAN — In the past two weeks, cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) grew by 359 in Okanogan County, bringing the total case count to 524 as of Friday morning, according to Okanogan County Public Health.
Total cases by city include: Brewster, 336; Carlton, four; Malott, 16; Nespelem, 10; Okanogan, 23; Omak, 61; Oroville, 14; Pateros, 26; Riverside, four; Tonasket, 21; Twisp, one; Winthrop, five; unidentified, three.
“A surge in COVID-19 cases is leading to a delay in local data on COVID-19 test results across the state,” a statement from Okanogan Public Health said. “To connect our community with information as quickly as possible, Okanogan Public Health is now reporting data directly from Washington state. You may notice a slight difference between data previously reported and the data we are now sharing.”
Until July 22, the agency reported only cases that were confirmed to be Okanogan County residents.
“Because a case surge is causing data delays and we want our community to have data as soon as possible, we are now reporting directly from Washington state,” the statement said. “This data may include individuals who were tested in Okanogan County, but do not reside here. Please know this is a very small number of people. We will make minor adjustments to data as more information about individual cases is received.”
Public Health said the county two-week incident rate is 840.2 (number of cases/100,000/14 days).
As of Friday, there were six Okanogan County residents hospitalized at Central Washington Hospital, according to Confluence Health. Of the COVID patients at the facility, an additional five are from Chelan, three from Douglas, four from Grant and one from Yakima counties.
Three deaths have been reported in Okanogan County. The latest death – a man in his 30s from Mexico working in the Brewster area - was reported July 8.
In Ferry County, eight cases have been reported, including five in the past 14 days.
More restrictions imposed
On Thursday, July 23, Gov. Jay Inslee and Secretary of Health John Wiesman announced changes to the state’s “Safe Start,” economic reopening plan. The changes target activities that data have shown provide a higher risk of COVID-19 exposure.
It has been four months since the governor announced the state’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order. Since then, cases in the state have risen from 2,000 to almost 50,000, and deaths have increased from 110 to nearly 1,500, according to Inslee.
To combat the rising numbers, the Inslee and Wiesman changed guidance and regulations around restaurants, bars and fitness centers, plus weddings and funerals. The changes also affect family entertainment centers, movie theaters and card rooms.
“We do not take these steps lightly. We know every prohibition is a challenge for individuals and business owners,” Inslee said Thursday. “But we know that if we fail to act, we expose people and businesses to even greater risk down the line.”
Under the new guidance, ceremonies will remain permitted, but receptions are prohibited. Ceremonies must adhere to current guidance; for all phases, maximum indoor occupancy is 20 percent, or up to 30 people, whichever is less, as long as social distancing can be observed.
The changes go into effect Aug. 6, providing a grace period for weddings and funerals previously scheduled to take place or for people to readjust their plans.
Restaurant guidance will now require parties to be members of the same household in order to dine indoors. Outdoor dining and take-out remain available for small parties from different households.
Table size for dine-in in Phase 3 will be reduced to five individuals and occupancy reduced from 75 percent to 50 percent.
Restaurants also must close gaming and social areas, such as pool tables, dart boards and video games.
Bars will be closed for indoor service but can continue outdoor service. Alcohol service inside restaurants must end by 10 p.m.
Inslee did not specify why alcohol sales must end earlier.
The regulations take effect July 30.
The number of individuals allowed to use fitness center and other physical health venues at a given time will also be reduced.
In Phase 2, only five individuals — not including staff — will be allowed for indoor fitness services at a time. This includes gyms, fitness studios, and indoor pools, ice rinks, volleyball courts and tennis facilities. These are limited to small group instruction or private training.
Fitness center occupancy in Phase 3 will be reduced to 25 percent. All group fitness classes are limited to no more than 10, not including the instructors.
The changes are effective July 30.
Indoor family entertainment and recreation centers — including mini golf, bowling alleys and arcades — are prohibited from opening, as are indoor card rooms. Indoor movie theater occupancy will be reduced from 50 percent to 25 percent in Phase 3.
In addition to new restrictions, Wiesman announced an expansion of his facial coverings order that go into effect July 25.
The expansion will require face coverings in all common spaces, such as elevators, hallways and shared spaces in apartment buildings, university housing and hotels, as well as congregate settings such as nursing homes.
“We’re losing the momentum we had during the early months of this response,” Wiesman said. “Looking ahead to the fall and hopes of schools reopening, we must dig back in to regain control. Fewer, shorter, and safer interactions are crucial. Staying home is still safest but if you go out, keep it quick, keep your distance from others, and wear your face covering.”
Inslee also announced an extension of the state’s eviction moratorium to Oct. 15. Inslee said details on the extension will be released later.
In addition to the moratorium, the extension also directs Governor’s Office staff to convene an informal work group of landlords and tenants to discuss potential changes to the order in the short and long terms as the pandemic progresses, including the prospect of rent increases.
“I know we are all tired of how long this emergency has gone on, and the pain it has inflicted in our households and our communities,” Inslee said. “But we all remain steadfast in our refusal to allow COVID-19 to overwhelm our society, and we will lean on each other to get the job done. This is not the easy thing to do, but it is the right thing to do.
“These prohibitions are part of our approach, but they only supplement what we really need, which is for individuals to continue to make safe decisions and adhere to healthy practices.”