Steve Powell

2020 vision: Kitsap fared COVID-19 fairly well

  • Saturday, January 16, 2021 1:30am
  • Opinion

Like the rest of the country,

Kitsap County has been learning as it goes regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

But unlike what has happened nationwide, the county has been able to limit the number of deaths.

About 50 people have died from the coronavirus since March, out of the almost 4,500 who have tested positive. All had underlying health conditions and most were older than 65. Unfortunately many of the deaths have come recently, in 2021.

The county had 63,000 negative tests as of Nov. 27, when the sudden spike made it too time-consuming to keep up with.

South Kitsap has been hardest hit, with 1,290 positive cases, followed by Bremerton and Central Kitsap, each with over 1,000, North Kitsap with almost 800 and Bainbridge Island with just 200.

The low point for cases was early May to early June with next to nothing. Spikes occurred from July to September before taking off to unforeseen sights November and December and now into 2021.

Despite the shocking increase in cases, the number of deaths stayed low and hospitalizations were manageable. Only 142 people have been hospitalized in the 10 months, with about 15 the most at any one time.

The Department of Health said 75 positive cases per 100,000 cases in the previous two weeks were considered “high risk.” Kitsap County basically avoided that mark until the latest spike – and now it’s way above that at 216.

The county had an embarrassing moment early on when staff and patients at St. Michael Medical Center contracted COVID. Wards were shut down and people quarantined until it was gone.

Care facilities that dealt with outbreaks were Life Care Center and Olalla Recovery Centers in South Kitsap and Martha and Mary in North Kitsap.

COVID testing sites became more common as time went on, including drive-through spots that were fast and convenient.

The county got much better at contact tracing the virus in fall, leading to a better job of quarantining people so the virus would not spread.

Like other areas of the country, the county kept recommending keeping gatherings small, wearing masks, social distancing at least 6 feet, washing hands and cleaning surfaces commonly used.

Public schools stuck mostly to online learning, while some private schools met using vigorous COVID-19 protocols. High school sports were canceled at a competition level, but workouts for some sports with low contact were allowed in small groups, again using protocols.

Entertainment venues turned to online to keep their ventures growing.

Businesses rode the roller coaster of Gov. Jay Inslee allowing them to open and then closing them. Then they were allowed to open with limited capacity, and so on and so forth. Some businesses and charities ended up having to close their doors.

Others found creative ways to stay open: Bars and restaurants and gyms moved outdoors, even as temperatures dropped. Many offered their products for pick up or to go.

Travel advisories went into effect, basically asking if someone came here or you went somewhere to quarantine for many days before and after travel.

As the year ended, two vaccines were just starting to be distributed with a third expected soon.

One interesting chart the county keeps shows time spent: Retail and recreation is down 18 percent; using public transit down 46 percent; in the workplace down 28 percent; grocery and pharmacy visits down 8 percent; but time spent at home is up 12 percent. Kingston ferry ridership is down 49 percent and Bainbridge Island 63 percent. Kitsap Transit ridership is down 64 percent.

Among youth, 13 students on Bainbridge Island tested positive in November and 23 for North Kitsap, the highest month for each group. But to compare, South Kitsap had 61, Central Kitsap 27 and Bremerton 26.

In a community health survey regarding the pandemic:

• 82 percent say they stay home to slow the spread; 76 percent to protect friends and family; 74 percent to protect high-risk populations; and 68 percent to keep myself healthy.

• 60 percent say the hardest part of staying home is missing friends and co-workers; 49 percent say missing usual activities; 39 percent say minimizing grocery trips; and 37 percent say missing outdoor recreation.

• As for how they are handling the pandemic, 42 percent say OK, 38 percent well, 17 percent depends on the day, 2 percent mostly struggling, and 1 percent really struggling.

Finally, asked is there anything else they want to say, 12.2 percent added Kitsap government is doing a good job.

Steve Powell is editor of The Bainbridge Island Review.

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