Cowlitz County’s COVID-19 case rate has fallen to the lowest level it’s been since mid-July.
The county recorded 104 cases per 100,000 people from Feb. 17 to Feb. 23, down from the peak of 1,305 per 100,000 in mid-January.
Prior to February, the county had reached its lowest case rate in the last seven months in early December, with about 136 cases per 100,000 people, before the omicron variant drove cases up.
Hospitalizations also appear to be continuing down, with 11.8 per 100,000 reported from Feb. 17 to Feb. 23. PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center had four COVID-19 patients as of Friday morning.
Cowlitz County recorded 22,070 cases and 339 deaths as of Friday. Preliminary data show the county’s COVID-19 death rate may increase some in the coming weeks, but will remain below the surge in virus-related deaths recorded last fall.
About 61.7% of county residents had initiated vaccination and 56.2% were fully vaccinated as of Wednesday. Statewide, 73.7% had received at least one shot and 67% were fully vaccinated.
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COVID-19 at-home tests
Although COVID-19 activity is declining, health officials encourage residents to keep at-home tests on hand to use when needed.
“Home tests are an excellent public health tool that help us know quickly and conveniently if we have COVID-19 so that we can take action to care for ourselves, protect our families and communities and prevent onward transmission,” said Lacy Fehrenbach, deputy secretary // “Please make sure you have a box or two of at home tests at hand in your medicine kit.”
The state’s online portal now allows households to order a free at-home test kit twice a month while supplies last. Residents can place one order of up to five free tests at a time at www.sayyescovidhometest.org or by calling the state’s COVID-19 hotline, 1-800-525-0127. The tests will be delivered at no cost.
The website will be available in 37 languages by mid-March, expanded from English and Spanish.
Several organizations in Cowlitz County are distributing free at-home test kits and face masks.
Cowlitz County Health and Human Services ordered 10,000 test kits in January and received them all by mid-February, said Stefanie Donahue, communications manager.
The department has distributed about 9,500 test kits and 30,000 KN95 masks to eight organizations to hand out to community members for free, Donahue said. Those organizations include Lower Columbia CAP, Youth and Family Link, South Kelso Neighborhood Association and the Longview, Kelso, Woodland, Castle Rock and Kalama public libraries.
Cowlitz Family Health Center has been distributing its own batch of tests the organization received from the federal government. The clinics have plenty of tests but demand has dropped off significantly over the last couple weeks, said Jim Coffee, CEO. The tests do not expire until late in the year or next year, he said.