Seven weeks of drive-through testing finds 77 total COVID-19 cases

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EASTWENATCHEE — The Chelan-Douglas Health District says its community-by-community COVID-19 testing since mid-August has produced only about a 1 percent positive rate among those volunteering for the procedure.

The district began voluntary drive-through tests in Bridgeport and expanded to other NCW communities every week, administering more than 4,500 tests as of Oct. 9. Among those tested, just 77 new cases of coronavirus were identified. (See graphs above and below.)

But the testing helped discover and control small clusters of disease, including an outbreak that infected more than 20 people at one agricultural workplace near Leavenworth, the district says.

That finding arose from testing in the second week of September, when the percent of tests done in Leavenworth that gave a positive result for COVID-19 increased suddenly to over 3 percent.

“Clearly, something unusual was happening,” said Dr. Peter Houck, a former Centers for Disease Control epidemiologist now working with the health district. Health workers arranged to isolate infected people and quarantine those who had been exposed, and the number of new infections in Leavenworth returned to its baseline, Houck said.

While the community test findings are small, they do not account for all coronavirus cases discovered in the Wenatchee Valley. Tests by doctors’ offices, hospitals, clinics and other outreach efforts have found 197 cases in the last two weeks alone. Seven people are currently hospitalized for COVID-19 at Confluence Health, and 25 Chelan or Douglas County residents have died.

The overall rate of new cases in Chelan and Douglas counties is about 163 per 100,000 people in the population. That rate helps determine how soon the counties can move through phases of reopening in Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start COVID-19 recovery plan. A maximum of 75 cases per 100,000, for example, is required before public schools can open for in-person classes without a special waiver.

More community test sites are expected to open in coming weeks. The health district says it’s seeking community partners who can offer large parking areas or other open space to set up drive-through services; contact imt.osc@cdhd.wa.gov if you have space to offer.