Local health authorities: Too soon, we're "getting used" to COVID


Last updated 4/2/2021 at 9:52am

Betty Lacy's family and friends visits her Monday outside of the long-term care wing at Coulee Medical Center for 101st birthday on Tuesday. Fewer restrictions on long-term care (LTC) facilities under Phase 3 guidance in the state's re-opening plan make such visits possible. Public health authorities hope a rush to drop precautions won't endanger progress. All LTC residents at CMC have received two vaccine doses. From left: Gerry Kerby (son-in-law), Gail Elliott (daughter), Jim Elliott (son-in-law), Joanne Grumbly (daughter), Clea Kerby (daughter), Cleat Grumbly (grandson), Darla Orr (granddaughter), Monte Pryor (grandson), Bryn Elliott (granddaughter), and J.R. Cox (grandson-in-law). - Gwen Hilson photo

As public health authorities track cases of COVID-19, they worry that just as vaccines are rolling out faster, spring, sunshine and the yearning to breathe free could undermine progress on the fight against the virus and cause another surge of illness and death.

As numbers come down, then stop dropping, they're tending to "plateau" at a level higher than earlier plateaus, Coulee Medical Center CEO Ramona Hicks told her commissioners at a meeting Monday night. She'd been on a weekly health care community call for Grant County earlier that day, when that trend was noted.

""We're just getting used to the amount of covid that is in our communities," she said. "We're getting kind of numb to it."

But it is "still a reality," she said.

So to keep from re-igniting the coronavirus fire that has consumed lives and fortunes over the last year, the country, including local counties, need to maintain safety by continuing to wear masks, keep a distance from others and the other measures we've all grown tired of hearing.

"Our communities are starting to live as if COVID doesn't exist, and it's starting to be reflected in the data," Grant County Health Administrator Theresa Atkinson said March 24 at a county leadership meeting.

Atkinson said the agency hears from people outside the community who feel a need to report behaviors they know to go against the recommendations.

"I've had to field a number of calls from people that have visited our community (saying) our businesses are not enforcing masking. And it's reflected in the rates."

She said the county's vaccinations have not occurred at the rate that they should be, and people are "starting to let loose on some of our COVID precautions, and that has this health district very concerned for our community's well-being and our businesses' ability to stay open."

Atkinson said health officer across the state backed the move to reduce distancing requirements in school to 3-feet from 6 feet, but they also recommended hinging more open schooling, businesses and public events to a covid incidence rate below 200 per 100,000 residents in a county.

Most local counties except Lincoln currently are above that level, as are local numbers in the Grand Coulee Dam School District.

If state authorities continue to heed the advice of county public health experts, that could mean counties might be "rolling back" to Phase 2 and more restrictions soon, losing some recently gained freedoms in Phase 3.


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