OKANOGAN – Three COVID-19 deaths were reported Sept. 16 by Okanogan County Public Health, bringing the total to 44 since the pandemic started.

County hospitals continue to be overwhelmed by people with the virus, and schools are dealing with outbreaks among students and staff. (See related story.)

“Mid-Valley Hospital has seen a steady stream of COVID-positive patients through our emergency department and inpatient areas for the past few weeks,” said Richard Morales, Mid-Valley Hospital spokesman. “Through testing and treatment, we are seeing all age groups testing positive.”

As of Sept. 20, Okanogan County’s incidence rate (number of cases per rolling 14-day period per 100,000 population) was 1,118, down slightly from the Sept. 16 rate of 1,152 (as reported Sept. 17). Okanogan County Public Health reported 482 new cases in the past 14 days, including 46 Sept. 16, 38 Sept. 17, 28 Sept. 18 and one Sept. 19.

On Sept. 17, for data current through Sept. 16, the unvaccinated population had an incidence rate of 2,022, while the vaccinated population rate was 333. Corresponding figures were not available Sept. 20.

Morales said Mid-Valley has seen increased demand for vaccinations, so it has reopened its mass vaccination site from 8-10 a.m. Friday mornings at the Okanogan County Fairgrounds, 175 Rodeo Trail. Appointments may be made through links on the hospital’s website and social media.

Area clinics and some pharmacies also offer vaccinations.

“We encourage our friends and neighbors to get vaccinated if possible and, if not, please wear face coverings in group settings and stay home when you are sick,” Morales said.

Local health officials agree – and the numbers back it up – that unvaccinated individuals are the largest group experiencing COVID infections.

Confluence Health/Central Washington Hospital, Wenatchee, had 54 COVID patients as of Sept. 20, with 47 of them not fully vaccinated. Seven were fully vaccinated.

Among the 14 COVID patients in intensive care, 10 were not fully vaccinated. Twenty-seven of the 32 patients in isolation were not fully vaccinated, while eight of 11 on ventilators were not fully vaccinated.

For COVID patients at Central, 15 are from Chelan County and 13 are from Grant County. Okanogan County is next with 12, followed by Douglas, 10. Ferry, King and Yakima counties each have one, as does Uinta, Utah.

Two weeks ago, medical agencies issued a warning that not everyone may get the level of care they need because of skyrocketing COVID-19 cases overflowing emergency rooms at the county’s three hospitals.

“The current COVID-19 surge has stretched resources to the limit and there are no beds available at hospitals elsewhere in Washington state,” said the Sept. 10 statement from Mid-Valley in Omak, Three Rivers in Brewster and North Valley in Tonasket, and Okanogan County Public Health, Family Health Centers, LifeLine Ambulance and Aero Methow Rescue Service.

“Patients cannot be transferred and are being cared for in the emergency department. There are very few resources or staff to care for incoming patients,” said the agencies.

Morales said his hospital is “pandemic-weary,” but is providing “safe and compassionate care to the very sick patients we are seeing during this surge.”

As of Sept. 16, Ferry County had 63 new cases in the previous 14 days, according to the Northeast Washington Tri-County Health District. The incidence rate was 810.

Ferry County had three COVID-19-related deaths in the 30 days prior to Sept. 16.

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