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The original item was published from 10/15/2020 8:18:00 AM to 11/15/2020 6:05:05 PM.

News Flash

Health & Human Services

Posted on: October 15, 2020

[ARCHIVED] Press Release 20-062: Latest COVID-19 Information and School Recommendations

Official statistics on COVID-19 can be found on Cowlitz County’s COVID-19 Resources page.   The Daily Data Summary provides daily updates on cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, as well as weekly updates on case and death demographics.  The Data Reports & Epi-Curves section provides weekly updates on how Cowlitz County compares to the school reopening metrics; more in-depth biweekly reports on COVID-19 cases, testing, and other metrics; and archived videos and presentations given at the Board of County Commissioners and Board of Health meetings. 


Community members have asked questions about the case counts that we report.  We encourage Cowlitz residents to avoid unofficial sources of information that may misunderstand COVID-19 data. In addition to providing the reports listed above, we provide descriptions of how COVID-19 data are analyzed and interpreted.  For example, case counts for a specific time frame may differ between two reports when one uses the date that the nasal specimen was collected while the other relies on the date a case is reported to the health department.  More information can be found on Daily Data Summary page.


School Reopening Recommendation Considerations

The Washington State Department of Health’s Decision Tree provides guidance to communities when making decisions about in-person learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.  While this document includes some objective metrics, it also provides room for schools and health departments to implement the guidelines in a way that best serves their students and communities. 

CCHHS generally bases our recommendations on DOH’s Decision Tree.  We also add a time parameter – we will generally support expanding in-person learning when COVID-19 activity has remained in the moderate or low range for 3 consecutive weeks. 

After each expansion:

  • If rates remain in the moderate range for three consecutive weeks, we support expanding in-person learning to additional groups of students.
  • If rates increase and remain in the high range for more than 3 weeks, we will recommend that all students return to remote learning.   
  • If rates spike into the high range but return to moderate within 3 weeks, we recommend maintaining students’ current learning modality; in-person students will remain in-person, while remote students will remain remote.

We use this 3-week delay in changes to control disease transmission while preventing schools from switching rapidly between in-person and remote learning, which would be challenging for schools, children, and their families to manage.  Our recommendation may also consider other factors, such as when we waited until 2 weeks after Labor Day to decide on a recommendation for in-person learning even though we had been in the moderate range for more than 3 weeks, or when our percent positivity exceeds 5%.

We acknowledge the difficult balance of weighing the risk of COVID-19 infections in schools with the needs of children and families that in-person school helps address. Our recommendations take into account the needs of the community as a whole.  In addition, we encourage parents to make decisions that best suit their children and family.  To support these decisions, we encourage local school districts to provide families with the option of keeping their children in remote learning even when in-person learning is provided.  We also acknowledge that each school district has different circumstances and will continue to work closely with school districts to provide individualized guidance as local circumstances warrant.

CCHHS Current Recommendation on School Reopening

With Cowlitz County’s return to the moderate activity level after a recent spike in cases, CCHHS recommends school districts continue to approach in-person learning with caution. Our current recommendation considers that some school districts postponed in-person learning until we knew the extent of our spike in cases after the Labor Day holiday even though rates had been in the moderate range more than three weeks in September.  

  • For school districts currently in all-remote learning Because the spike in cases was short-lived, these school districts can plan a return to in-person learning for elementary students, as described by the DOH Decision Tree
  • For school districts that have begun in-person learning These districts can begin planning to expand to more grade levels (middle and high school students), but we recommend waiting to expand until 3 weeks of moderate activity has been sustained. 

If case rates accelerate after expansion, or if rates enter and remain in the high range for more than 3 weeks, we will recommend that all school districts return to remote learning

To contact the Health & Human Services Departments, please call 360-414-5599 or email

Ralph Herrera, PIO
360-442-7082 or 360-414-5599

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