Clark County’s Melnick: Assume coronavirus is everywhere

Coronavirus

137 cases, 8 deaths so far in Clark County

VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) — As of Friday morning, there were 137 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Clark County along with 8 deaths, all of whom were over 60.

There are 3 ZIP Codes in Clark County that have at least 16 cases. But Dr. Alan Melnick, the county’s Public Health Director, does not consider these areas to be hot spots.

Pointing to a county map, Melnick said the “ZIP Codes are shaded base on where the confirmed cases live, not based on whey they acquired the infection.”

Clark County Medical Officer Dr. Alan Melnick at a coronavirus press conference, March 17, 2020 (KOIN)

“For example,” he said, “they could have driven into Portland, they could have gotten the infection in Vancouver. If they live in Battle Ground, these are where the cases live.”

The other issue is isolation, he said. If someone is isolated — at home, in a hospital — they’re not generally out and infecting other people in the community, he said.

Melnick said the map on the county’s coronavirus page doesn’t mean that if you go into one certain area there’s an increase risk of infection.

Clark County map of COVID-19 cases by ZIP Code

“We know that the disease is fairly widespread in the community now and these cases that are confirmed cases are basically just the tip of the iceberg. There hasn’t been enough testing that’s been done so we know there’s other people out there who are infected or haven’t been tested, and some of them may even be asymptomatic.”

His advice: Just assume the novel coronavirus is everywhere.

“You need to assume that anywhere you go in our community, if you’re not practicing social distancing you’re at risk of getting the infection,” he said.

Battle Ground resident Marilyn Groover laughed when explaining she went to the post office during the pandemic to pay her estimated taxes, April 3, 2020 (KOIN)

Battle Ground resident Marilyn Groover, who talked with KOIN 6 News outside the 98604 post office, said she doesn’t really worry about the ZIP Code connection with the number of COVID-19 cases.

“I take precautions and stay home. When I get back from the post office, when I get back home I’ll wash my hands and wipe down the steering wheel and handles on the car,” she said. “So I’m being pretty careful.”

Continuing Coverage: Coronavirus

Melnick didn’t really have an answer other than “coincidence” why some ZIP Codes show a higher concentration than others in the county.

“The numbers are so small,” he said.

He supports Gov. Jay Inslee’s order extending the “stay home” order in Washington until May 4.

A graphic from the CDC about “flattening the curve” during the coronavirus pandemic, March 2020

“There’s modeling that’s being done that shows the peak sometime later this month,” Melnick said. “I’m not going to give you an exact date about that. I’m hoping that our social distancing measures work and we flatten the curve.”

The only reason Marilyn Groover went to the post office, she said with a laugh, was “to pay my estimated taxes.”

Like most people, she’s doing home projects she wouldn’t normally do. “I’m dreaming up things to do, like washing windows, things that I wouldn’t want to do ordinarily.”

Battle Ground High School displays a sign during the coronavirus pandemic, April 3, 2020 (KOIN)

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