FERRY COUNTY, Wash. — Ferry County has experienced a "sharp increase" in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations following a three-day-long superspreader event in the small north-central Washington town of Republic, health officials said.
The event was set up to recruit new Fraternal Order of Eagles members the weekend of April 9-11. Some said it was advertised as a protest against COVID-19 restrictions. Jeff King, the club president, said it was simply a dinner and poker night to attract new members.
There have been 106 new COVID-19 cases reported in Ferry County residents since April 12, according to the Northeast Tri-County Health District. Seven people have required transport to other hospitals and there have been other people hospitalized, health officials said. One COVID-19 death had been reported in the county as of Friday, April 30.
Ferry County has the highest COVD-19 case rate adjusted for population in Washington state and ranks among the highest nationally, the health district said on Friday.
The Associated Press reported on Sunday, May 2 that about 10% of the population of Republic has tested positive for COVID-19. Many businesses, agencies and governmental offices in the town have had to close their doors to the public and are using modified practices as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
Ferry County moved back to Phase 2, hospital feels impact of outbreak
The Northeast Tri-County Health District and the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) moved Ferry County back to Phase 2 of reopening amid the outbreak.
According to Washington's Roadmap to Recovery plan, counties with a population of under 50,000 people must have less than 100 new cases of COVID-19 over the course of 14 days or no more than three people hospitalized over the course of seven days to remain in Phase 3.
Phase 2 restricts occupancy in indoor spaces at 25% and caps small indoor group gatherings at five people.
Ferry County Memorial Hospital "continues to experience a significant increase in ER visits as a result of the rapid spread and severity of the patients' symptoms," according to the health district. The small facility has limited space and staff are at capacity.
Neighboring local and regional hospitals are also busy and limited in ability to receive patient transfers, the health district said.
The hospital is working with the DOH COVID-19 Response Team for medical staffing assistance, in-person home monitoring, coordination with regional hospitals and logistical assistance, according to the health district. Ferry County Memorial Hospital may also need to divert admissions for patients who do not have COVID-19 to maintain staffing and bed availability.
The health district is urging community members to schedule a vaccine appointment online, wear masks in public spaces, stay home when sick and get tested for COVID-19, maintain social distancing and avoid large gatherings.