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Health & Human Services

Posted on: December 21, 2021

Cowlitz County health officials urge caution as Omicron cases pick up in Washington state

LONGVIEW, Washington — Health officials expect COVID-19 infections to rise in Cowlitz County over the coming weeks due to the recent emergence of the highly contagious Omicron variant in Washington state. Residents are advised to take steps to reduce the spread of the virus while gathering with friends and family over the holidays.

The Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, was first identified in the state on December 4. Since then, at least 400 Omicron cases have been detected among Washington state residents. While no Omicron cases have been linked to Cowlitz County cases to date, it is likely the variant is spreading locally and will soon become the dominant strain.

Researchers are still learning about the Omicron variant. Early data suggest it spreads more easily than the original virus strain, but more studies are needed to know if the variant is associated with an increased risk of severe illness. The COVID-19 vaccines are expected to provide protection against hospitalization and death caused by Omicron infection.

“We are all feeling tired – tired of the pandemic, tired of a new variant, and tired of all this uncertainty. But COVID-19 is tireless,” said Dr. Steven Krager, deputy health officer for Cowlitz County. “We have made great strides since the last holiday season and we can take relatively simple steps to stay safe this holiday season.”

The average number of new COVID-19 cases added per day in Cowlitz County may be increasing following several weeks in decline. Over Dec. 5-11, an average of 24 new cases were added in the county per day. Hospitalizations may be following a similar trend. 

“The best way to protect yourself and others from Omicron and other COVID-19 variants is to get vaccinated,” Krager said. “The same steps people have already been taking to protect themselves and others from COVID-19 also work against the variants.”

Everyone ages 5 and older is eligible to get COVID-19 vaccine. Booster doses are recommended for ages 16 and older at least six months after receiving the second Pfizer or Moderna dose or two months after receiving the first Johnson & Johnson dose.

In addition to getting vaccinated, the following measures are also effective at reducing the risk of catching or spreading COVID-19: 

• Getting tested for COVID-19 before joining indoor gatherings with others who are not in your household. Find a testing location near you: https://bit.ly/3Ff7XKb.
• Wearing a well-made, well-fitted face mask if you are in a public indoor setting – whether or not you are vaccinated.
• Avoiding crowded, poorly ventilated spaces. Check out CDC’s interactive ventilation tool to see how you can decrease the level of virus particles during and after gatherings: https://bit.ly/3EdqN36
• Staying home and not attending or hosting a gathering if you are sick or if you have been exposed to COVID-19.
• Washing your hands often, not touching your face, and carrying hand sanitizer for use when water and soap are not available.

Free, rapid COVID-19 tests available 
For those who have not yet participated in the Say Yes! COVID Test program – it’s not too late!

COVID-19 tests are available to Cowlitz County residents online for free home delivery. By visiting www.SayYesCovidHomeTest.org, households can place up to one order containing eight rapid tests they can self-administer. Orders arrive within seven days.

If you receive a positive result, you have an infection and should avoid indoor gatherings. If you receive a negative result, you may not have an infection. Repeating the test with at least 24 hours between tests will increase the confidence that you are not infected.

To learn more about the Say Yes! COVID Test program, visit: https://bit.ly/3EgsLzJ.

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Contact:
Stefanie Donahue
Communications Manager
(360) 414-5599, ext. 6451
donahues@co.cowlitz.wa.us 
Release #: 21-037

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