Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

By Jana Mathia
Gazette Editor 

Patients recovering:

Understanding the COVID-19 numbers


April 16, 2020

Only one new positive case was reported in the past week for COVID-19, bringing the total to 13. The first four patients have fully recovered and are cleared from isolation.

While most people focus on the number of positive cases reported, Whitman County Public Health also reports another number that is often overlooked, but can be very telling.

Just below Public Health's number of positive cases is the number of negative cases. Tuesday afternoon that number was 441 with the words "at least" behind it in parenthesis. According to Public Health Director Troy Henderson, health care providers are not required to report their negative test to the health department. He estimated the number of negatives is closer to the 500 range which still leaves the total number of tests administered in the county less than 600.

The amount of testing has been limited primarily due to capacity. With the limited number of tests allotted to the county, people have to meet certain criteria before being tested. Originally, those being tested had to exhibit symptoms and have made contact with a COVID-19 positive person. Henderson said that those criteria parameters have loosened as the capacity to test has increased, so now those with symptoms but not known contact can be tested. Those with no symptoms are still not able to be tested.

"It still changes day to day based on supplies," he said. At first, Whitman County was only able to test two or three people a day, but that number is now closer to 30.

As capacity to test in the county has gone up, demand has actually gone down.

"I think people now are a little more comfortable with the situation we're in," Henderson said.

He added Whitman County residents adhering to social distancing has greatly reduced the spread in the county.

The tests are similar to flu tests where a six-inch long swab is inserted through the nose to the back of the nasal passage and twisted to collect a sample on the swab. The process is repeated for the other nostril as well. The swab is then put in a container and sent away to determine the test.

By current estimates, people are infected with COVID-19 two days before showing symptoms. As part of the county investigating contacts of known cases, it asks who they were around two days before symptoms to contact those who might be at risk.

In addition to the health department and area hospitals, tests have been done at clinics, WSU wellness center and SEL's health department.


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