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Clark County COVID-19 data shows virus exposure most likely from another household member

An epidemiologist says even though most are exposed by a household member, that household member contracted the virus outside the home

VANCOUVER, Wash. — Over the last four weeks, positive COVID-19 tests have risen steadily in Clark County. 

Recent COVID-19 activity levels (rate is calculated weekly):

  • Sept. 28: 86.18 cases per 100,000
  • Oct. 5: 95.60 cases per 100,000
  • Oct. 12: 100.1 cases per 100,000
  • Oct. 19: 115.05 cases per 100,000

*Data from Clark County Public Health

"As the weather gets worse and people spend more time indoors, I suspect that we'll be seeing levels continuing to go up, said Clark County Public Health epidemiologist Dr. Alan Melnick.

During the month of September, contact tracers found 142 out of 360 positive cases likely stemmed from exposure to members of the same household. 

"I'd point out, even though it's a top number, that's well less than half. That means that 61% of exposures were outside the household," Dr. Melnick said. "When we talk about households, it's not like the virus germinated inside a household. One of the household members had to bring it in from the outside."

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The second most common source of exposure appeared to be small private gatherings of fewer than 10 people. The county reported 20%, or 72 cases, traced back to small gatherings.

"Those are more likely people you know really well. If you know people well, you're more likely to be less likely to mask and more likely to be physically close for longer periods of time," Melnick said.

In July and August, the top two sources of exposure were household members and small gatherings as well.

"I think what people should read into these numbers are that gatherings outside your household, whether they be large gatherings or small gatherings, are risky. You're going to get the virus from somebody else," Melnick said. "Whether you're going to a gym or whether you're going somewhere else, physical distancing and mask use is really essential. The less people you're around, the better."

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