Washougal WA – Several classrooms at Columbia River Gorge Elementary had extra faces in boxes during their ZOOM lessons on Wednesday, November 18 when Washougal School District (WSD) Board members joined in.

“Typically, the Board takes learning walks at our schools to see first-hand the education and learning going on,” said Renae Burson, WSD Assistant Superintendent.  “But in the new virtual world that education is in, today’s visit took place via ZOOM classrooms.”

The session began promptly at 7:30 a.m. and, over several hours and through a number of ZOOM links, board members visited CRGE first and fifth grade classrooms, Kindergarten music class and a presentation by Wolfways to the entire third grade.

“My school team has forged ahead successfully,” Tracey MacLachlan, CRGE Principal told board members as they prepared to join the classrooms.  “They are very innovative, and they understand just how important it is for them to be reaching out and connecting to all students. No one is happy with the status quo.”

Board members witnessed fast paced, yet calm instruction and activities that are necessary to capture and hold the attention of students.

“We can’t just sit back, or the kids will check out,” said MacLachlan.  “What is important to me as an administrator is our teachers are knowing their students and engaging them. Engagement is the number one priority to support learning at CRGE.”

In the past, only the first couple weeks of school may have included a lot of classroom community building. “With remote learning, teachers are keeping more of those activities as a way to engage,” explained MacLachlan.  “Morning meetings and community building activities, that include recognizing and connecting with individual students, hold a lot of value for engagement.” 

CRGE first grade teachers report connecting with approximately 90 percent of their students and they continue to reach out to those who are missing. 

“We have to support them wherever they are at and provide individualized attention as they need it,” said CRGE first grade teacher, Sydney Termini. “It is about knowing what is going on with a student and keeping the student accountable for their own learning and setting expectations.”

MacLachlan said her teachers understand it is all about relationship building, for instance encouraging use of cameras. “If there is a black screen or the student can not be seen in the image, the teacher may call on that student during the lesson to check their engagement,” MacLaclan explained.

“They find many are participating but just not on camera.” 

If it is clear the student is not present, the family is contacted. However, some students may have poor wifi connectivity so the camera can not operate or they may be in a difficult living situation.  If a student privately requests their camera not be used for good reason it can be approved.

“This is all a huge puzzle and being honed to each individual student,” MacLachlan said.  “What is important is for teachers to know the student and know the situation so they can offer the right help at the right time. We can’t challenge if we don’t know them and can’t challenge if we don’t nurture. I want us to persevere every time!”  

“I was impressed with how organized the virtual classroom was and the quality of instruction from the teachers in a virtual environment,” said WSD Board president, Cory Chase. “It was fun to see the kids engaged in learning and interacting with one another.  The pandemic has provided some significant challenges, but I was really happy to see how everyone was adapting and making the most of our unique circumstances.”

Chase found the virtual music class a pleasant surprise. 

“I had heard about them but being able to experience it first-hand really gave me a new perspective.  It was fun to see and hear music, movement, and sign language combined in the lesson,” he said. 


“I was impressed by the community building and engagement and pleased that kids were learning important skills like how to operate in a group (hand raising and waiting their turn), as well as applied math skills in the first grade classroom,” said Board member Donna Sinclair. “The classroom mantras that reinforced respect and kindness were also terrific.”

Sinclair noted that the board understands there are kids whose needs are not being met.  “But I appreciate that teachers and paraeducators are working hard to stay in contact with them,” she said.

“Our elementary teachers are really hitting the mark,” said WSD Superintendent Mary Templeton. “I am encouraged at what I saw and impressed with how they manage relationships, expectations and connections. We hope the Board feels they benefited by having eyes on the product we are providing.  We wanted them to know how this looks and how it sounds.   I am enormously proud of our Washougal teachers and staff and the work they are doing on behalf of our students.”

The WSD Board will visit other Washougal schools virtually in early 2021.

Camas, WA — About 50 members of a local group called Open Camas Schools rallied for several hours today at the Camas School District (CSD) administration building and alongside Everett Street.

Their intention is to encourage CSD to start opening up more classes to in-person learning. Camas schools have been mostly closed to in-person learning since March, with the exception of special education and a handful of other students totaling about 600 district wide.

Open Camas Schools is a grassroots group of parents and some teachers who are greatly concerned about students falling behind academically, as well as the mental and emotional challenges emerging from continued isolation from peers, academics, and sports.

”I’m here to support Camas schools,” said Mike Hubbell, a concerned parent who helped organize today’s rally. “I want to see our kids back in school. I believe there’s a better method than how we’re currently teaching our kids — to sit and just watch a screen.”

Is the timing right now challenging given the lockdown?

“I think there’s always going to be challenging times,” he said. “When you look at the opportunity we are missing with our kids there’s nothing more important than our kids being educated. The biggest challenge is seeing my kids in sports, and how that’s affecting their ability to play sports, their ability to practice sports, and the whole camaraderie that people see when they play sports. Kids love to play with other kids. They’re missing out on those opportunities right now, and that’s a big part of what our lives are about. The hard work, the dedication that comes with that. Parents don’t get together anymore.”

He also said the schools are the hubs of community.

“The moment you destroy schools, you destroy sense of community.”

Mike Hubbell, Open Camas Schools

He’s also very concerned about the mental well being of students.

“Too much screen time is dangerous,” Hubble said. “What kind of message are we sending to our kids?”

Heather Wynn was also in attendance.

“We’re here as parents asking the district to hear us,” said Wynn. “Online learning is not working for many, many students for many reasons, not just academically. It’s harming them mentally and socially. So, we are here to say it can be done safely. Once the lockdown is over let’s get on this. Let’s get them back in school happy and healthy.

“We know this lockdown has put a damper on things, we’re not tone deaf, but we did plan this weeks ago. We’ve done car rallies, and we’re just getting nowhere with them (CSD Administration). They’re not listening to us. They are using one metric, and this metric is not meeting the needs of the children.”

What’s the metric?

”Case numbers per 100,000,” she said. “It has to be 75 or under and it’s the only metric they are using. They’re not paying attention to other statistics from other school districts that have been open. So, we believe all those things have to be put on the table. We are here to ask them to look at other schools who are doing it safely, even here in our local area. And, then make the decision based on that. Look at what the children are asking for. How many are failing? I personally know of two children — not in this area — who have committed suicide.”

Wynn wants CSD to open up schools once this current lockdown is over. She’s not asking all families or teachers to come back to school.

“I don’t want them to go against what they believe,” she said. “You can see people are saying we need these in-person options for our kids. We want our children to be better served. It can be done safely. They have the space in the buildings. Follow all the protocols. Do a hybrid model. To teachers we say we need you in the classroom.”

The Open Camas Schools Facebook page has 922 members as of this writing.

CSD Statement

Dr. Jeff Snell, Superintendent of Camas Schools, issued this statement today:

“We recognize that this is a challenging time for everyone and appreciate that the pandemic has affected all of our families uniquely.  We understand the value of in-person learning experiences and have been incrementally increasing the number of students served that way within the recommendations from the Washington State Department of Health.  We also value input from our community – students, staff, and families.  Last night, we held another town hall to engage the community in a conversation about remote learning, increasing in-person learning opportunities, and the current transmission rates in our community.  My hope is that we can rally together in our community and every other community on behalf of our students, drive down transmission rates and get all of our kids back in school.”

The Town Hall was virtually attended by about 200 people. Here are some resources CSD posted today from the event.

 *   Town Hall Recording<https://camas-wednet-edu.zoom.us/rec/share/AqkBv7RuEDngRF1nvRYEGVYeIuHBoenB9XZfh71nSsDPl86WtDLs95usXn3io9MZ.1oufgBhpi2iQ-bYU>
 *   Presentation Slides<https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1BGyVnno1sR-b_534495KBEkD9vU0IecvgLKX1t7fhzg/edit?usp=sharing>
 *   Thoughtexchange prior to Town Hall<https://my.thoughtexchange.com/report/9f1740ee28e0a23b0b9b1ad48369f555> – read community members’ concerns and questions that we used to help plan the Town Hall
 *   Thoughtexchange during the Town Hall<https://my.thoughtexchange.com/report/f8f583c4132ba1bf6002d3f6dc3e4ebf> – read participants’ questions and concerns captured at the end of the Town Hall Meeting.

Open Camas Schools rally in front of the CSD Administration building.

Vancouver, WA — Multiple Clark County health leaders are urging local residents to mask up, physical distance, and follow COVID-19 guidelines to slow down the present virus “explosion” in Southwest Washington.

“The COVID-19 case numbers are exploding,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, Director of Clark County Public Health. “They are going up at an alarming rate.”

Eight weeks ago, the county averaged 28 cases per day, last week it averaged 120 cases per day, and Monday the health department reported Clark County added 310 new virus cases from the last three days. Melnick said this is the highest weekend number reported since the pandemic began.

The county reports that 42 percent of COVID-19 infections trace back to households, while small intimate gatherings make up 18 percent of the infection total.

At Monday’s press briefing, Melnick, along with Dr. Ray Lee, Medical Chief of Staff at PeaceHealth, and Dr. Hoa Ly, Medical Director at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center, said they are calling on citizens to take personal responsibility to stop the virus spread.

Lee said “the stakes of our personal decisions before us right now cannot be higher” while Ly said his hospital is postponing some elective procedures to ensure more beds are available for the expected uptick in virus-related hospitalizations.

The health department said 50 people are currently hospitalized for COVID-19, and 76 percent of licensed hospital beds are currently occupied, which is four percent below the state’s desired 80 percent target.

“We are fully capable of making sacrifices for a higher calling,” Ly said. “We are capable of making difference for ourselves and our loved ones. The virus can only do what we allow it to do. This is in our power to defeat this virus if we choose to work together.”


Clark County by the numbers — to-date:

Confirmed positive COVID-19 cases to-date: 6,470
Total negative tests to date: 89,681
Hospitalizations to-date: 432
Deaths to-date: 80
% of Deaths: 1.7%

Clark County Public Health’s Monday COVID-19 update: 

  • 6,470 cases to date
  • 1 new death (80 to date) — a woman in her 80s with underlying conditions
  • 482 active cases
  • 50 COVID-19 patients hospitalized
  • 6 persons under investigation (PUIs) for COVID-19 hospitalized 
Dr. Alan Melnick, Director, Clark County Public Health

A reminder about active cases: This reflects the number of confirmed cases who are currently in their isolation period. For most people, isolation is based on when symptoms began, not when they received the positive test result. Some individuals learn they are COVID-19 positive and only have a few days of isolation remaining.

Olympia, WA — Governor Jay Inslee issued broad new statewide restrictions and shutdowns for restaurants, gyms, theaters and all indoor gatherings during a Sunday morning address. 

Most of the orders are effective at 11:59 pm Monday, with the exception of restaurants and bars, which go into effect at 11:59 pm on Tuesday. The order expires on December 14.

“In order to slow the spread of rapidly increasing COVID cases in our state, and ensure that hospital and medical systems are not overwhelmed, we are taking the very difficult but necessary steps to protect public health,” Inslee said. “We recognize this will cause financial hardship for many businesses and we are exploring ways to mitigate the impacts.”

He ordered restaurants and bars to shutdown indoor service and to limit outdoor service to parties of five or less. Indoor gyms and fitness centers must also shutdown, along with movie theaters, bowling alleys and museums. Indoor gatherings with people outside your household will be prohibited unless participants have quarantined for 14 days, tested negative and quarantine for seven days prior or receive a negative COVID-19 test within two days of the planned gathering.

“Indoor social gatherings from people outside your home are prohibited unless they have been quarantined for 14 days,” Inslee said. “You can get the virus in your own home.”

This is the most extensive mandate since Inslee’s March emergency stay at home order. The new orders do not apply to K-12 schools or the court system. They also do not apply to child care.

“Today, Sunday, November 15, 2020, is the most dangerous public health day in the last 100 years of our state’s history,” Inslee said. “A pandemic is raging in our state. Left unchecked, it will assuredly result in grossly overburdened hospitals and morgues; and keep people from obtaining routine but necessary medical treatment for non-COVID conditions.”

Despite a statewide mask mandate, which was issued in June, and current restrictions on businesses, the pandemic has been rapidly spreading in Washington. The state, for the last two weeks, has been breaking previous infection records almost daily. 

“We need to preserve our well being,” said Inslee. “I share your frustration, but we need to hold the pandemic down until the calvary arrives (referring to a vaccine).”

Two weeks ago, the state recorded a then-record 1,469 coronavirus infections. By Nov. 14, daily infections had increased more than 50 percent and stood at 2,233 infections, according to Dr. Kathy Lofy, State Health Officer. The day Inslee issued his stay-home order in March, there were 225 confirmed infections.

Outdoor social gatherings should be limited to no more than five people from outside your household, Inslee said. Religious services can continue, but must limit indoor attendance to 25 percent of capacity, or 200 people, whatever is less. Masks must be worn at all times and choirs, bands and congregational singing will be prohibited. Wedding and funeral ceremonies will be limited to 30 people. Receptions are prohibited.

Retail stores, including grocery stores, and malls must limit occupancy to 25 percent and must close food court seating.

Offices are required to mandate employees work from home, if possible, and must limit occupancy to 25 percent if they remain open. They must be closed to the public.

Long-term care facilities can accept visitors only in outdoor settings, with limited exceptions for end-of-life care and essential support personnel.

Personal services, such as barber shops and salons, are limited to 25 percent capacity. Real estate open houses are prohibited. Youth and adult sports are limited to outdoor only intrateam practices and athletes must wear masks.

Inslee acknowledged the financial hardship this will bring to businesses already suffering from existing mandates. He said the state has issued $25 million in grants, and there is an additional $50 million coming to help mitigate business challenges.

“This is not enough,” Inslee said. “We need the federal government to step up to the plate. Congress needs to help. And, we are looking at alternatives.”

Lofy is fearful of getting to 4,000 cases per day, which she said would overwhelm hospitals. 

Clint Wallace, an ICU nurse also spoke.

“We are exhausted, we are tired,” said Wallace. “It’s about adequate staffing, and COVID patients require more than normal patients. We are all close to burning out.”

Latest daily statewide COVID-19 case numbers.

Olympia, WA — Governor Jay Inslee is expected to announce a series of restrictions Sunday to slow the spread of COVID-19 cases, including a ban on indoor service at restaurants and bars, as well as indoor social gatherings. In addition, the four-week mandates are to come with new restrictions on occupancy limits for retailers, according to the Washington Food Industry Association.

“The governor’s office is looking at some possible restrictions so we can get the COVID cases down again,” said Tammie Hetrick, President & CEO of Washington Food Industry Association.

According to Hetrick, the governor’s staff provided the association with early outlines of the mandates, but they have not unveiled all the specifics. Inslee is set to announce his plans in a Sunday morning at 11, as of this writing.

Inslee spokesperson Tara Lee said the four-week order will be effective this Monday, and has heavy restrictions on grocers, retailers and restaurants, as well as indoor social gatherings.

“We are not disputing the details and will provide more information on Sunday,” she wrote.

Hetrick said the governor’s staff had indicated Inslee was considering several new steps.

These steps include a ban on all indoor social gatherings and indoor service at bars and restaurants. Outdoor service will likely be restricted to five people. Current restrictions keep bars and restaurants at 50 percent capacity.

The new restrictions, according to Senator Ann Rivers (LD-18), also limit retailers, grocery and convenience stores, to 25 percent occupancy.

There is also a plan to update guidance on mask restrictions. It’s unclear what restrictions will be placed on gyms.

According to Clark County Public Health, two percent of COVID-19 cases are traced back to restaurants and grocery stores.

“One of the problems with COVID response is that our strategy has been one size fits all,” said Rivers. “We must shift to local control and local decision making for a tailored response. We can see from the information provided by Clark County public Health that restaurants are not where people are contracting COVID. On the contrary, the protective measures that have been taken are very effective. To shut down that significant sector of our economy when it is not contributing to the problem will only make things worse for us.”

Clark County Public Health said the top five likely sources of exposure come from the following:

  • Household member: 299 cases, or 42 percent
  • Private social gathering: 125 cases, or 18 percent
  • Office: 35 cases, or 5 percent
  • Health care setting: 32 cases, or 5 percent
  • Long-term care facility: 25 cases, or 4 percent 

Lacamas Magazine will air the Governor’s speech LIVE on Sunday at 11 am.

Source: Clark County Public Health

Salem, OR — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Friday ordered a statewide two-week “freeze,” which restricts social gatherings and closes many businesses in an effort to help curb this third wave of COVID-19.

Beginning Wednesday, November 18, bars and restaurants will become takeout only. Indoor facilities such as gyms, museums and skating rinks are mandated to close entirely until the order is lifted in early December.

Her orders Friday are some of the most stringent in Oregon since her March stay-at-home order.

Under Brown’s latest order indoor and outdoor gatherings will be limited to no more than six people from two separate households. Grocery stores and pharmacies will also be required to limit their capacities, and churches are allotted indoor crowds no larger than 25 people.

Anyone traveling to Oregon is also required to quarantine for 14 days upon the arrival.

“I want to be honest,” Brown said Friday. “We are trying to stop this ferocious virus from spreading even more quickly and far wide, and to save lives.”

Brown said that some counties could remain in the freeze longer than two weeks, noting that Multnomah county’s orders are to last four weeks.


Olympia, WA — Washington Governor Jay Inslee, with First Lady, Trudi Inslee, at his side, briefly addressed the state Thursday night about upcoming holiday gatherings.

Citing the third wave of COVID-19 throughout Washington, the Governor said “we need to rethink the holidays” and how families and friends gather.

“We knew these are treasured parts of our family traditions, but we will pause on gatherings this year and recommend a virtual Thanksgiving holiday,” Inslee said. “It’s simply too dangerous to gather together indoors.”

He understands this is a challenging request, and added “you are doing this as an act of love.”

“Please don’t gather with people outside your home, it’s just too dangerous,” he emphasized. “This period is as dangerous as March. We have done good work, and we have put our state in a better position than other states. What is urgent is what we do in our homes.”

The First Lady said “every social gathering is dangerous in our homes, and we implore you to rethink spending time with people outside your home.”

Inslee called it “the end of a tumultuous year and we hope to keep our families safe.” 

He also added that given corona virus spikes statewide that more restrictions are coming next week. 

“This is a temporary situation,” Inslee said. “And, things will get back to normal.”

The First Lady also thanked front line and essential workers as the address came near a close.


Camas, WA — Given the dynamic situation that COVID-19 presents to school districts, Lacamas Magazine asked Dr. Jeff Snell, Camas School District Superintendent, several questions about how the district is managing operations.

Question #1: Local teacher’s unions recently wrote a letter stating they refuse to go into the classroom until Clark County gets into moderate range for COVID-19. What have you heard from CEA? What is your position as the administration?

Snell: We meet weekly with our teacher association to discuss remote learning challenges and opportunities and increasing in-person learning experiences.  Our staff has been amazing at continuing to evolve our remote learning instruction, identifying students who need a little more support, and then coming up with ways to provide that support.  Their creativity and problem solving is a tremendous asset for our district and community.  They recognize how important it is to provide every service possible for students and families.

Question #2: When will first and second grade start going into the classroom?

Snell: We have been methodically increasing the number of students served in person through small groups.  In-person services, in small groups, align with the WA Department of Health recommendations during high COVID-19 activity levels.  We will monitor how well kindergarten goes and work with Clark County Public Health before consideration of adding any additional grade levels.  Obviously case rates have been increasing in our region so we want to be thoughtful about next steps.


Question #3: How many students in CSD have been permanently pulled from being in public school?

Snell: We track enrollment, a measurement of new students, and students leaving the district.  This fall, our enrollment has been down by about 5%.  

Editor’s Note: With enrollment at about 7,000, approximately 350 students have been pulled.

Question #4: What is the financial, per-student impact when a Camas student is pulled?

Snell: Each student generates about $11,500 in state funding. 

Question #5: Is Camas School District doing anything to help students who are having major mental/emotional problems?

Snell: This year in particular we are focusing much of our work on supporting systemic social emotional learning.  Teachers, counselors and other district staff are providing intentional opportunities for students to grow their emotional capacity.  We do this by highlighting topics such as self-awareness, stress management, and social awareness. In addition, our staff is focused on creating safety and belonging along with positive teacher student connections. When needed, our staff will connect students and families with community resources to assist students that are struggling emotionally.  

In addition to the direct support to students, we also take a whole system view on wellness.  We have a Parent Wellness program that offers parents a variety of opportunities to learn and connect with others in our community. This year we started a Parent Podcast and continue to provide workshops and book studies on a variety of topics.  We are about to host two virtual books studies that are free and open to everyone, “Grown and Flown” and  “The Financial Aid Handbook”. In addition, we have an upcoming Parent Wellness virtual workshop, “Brain Based Sensory Supports for Remote Learners”. Whenever possible, we record our workshops and archive them on our All-Student Wellness page on the district website.  This site has a host of information, articles, community resources and archived workshop videos. 

Question #6: Many parents are asking why is CSD so focused on equity and diversity education right now? They say shouldn’t general education be the focus given how many students are falling behind? And, wouldn’t it make more sense to focus on equity and diversity once the kids are back in school?

Snell: Our focus over the past five years has been on seeing and serving EACH student.  Creating a community where every student feels like they belong is critical for any learning to happen.  This is the goal of our equity work.  

It continues to be the responsibility of public schools to serve each and every student who enters our doors. To serve students requires that we create conditions of safety and belonging for all students, with heightened attention to students from marginalized or underserved groups. Our ultimate goal of instilling in each student a love of learning and achievement that opens doors to their futures cannot happen until a student feels seen, safe, and cared for as they are. The pandemic presents many challenges, one of which is widening already existing disparities. Our continued learning about and attention to equity and social emotional learning will ensure that we don’t lose sight of creating more equitable outcomes. This is at the heart of our focus to see and serve each student.  

Question #7: Public records state that half of Union High School students are failing right now. What percentage of students are failing in Camas High School right now? I personally know about 20 of them.

Snell: At the progress report time, about 500 students had a failing grade or near failing grade.  Last year at this time, there were about 300 students. This is a significant change.  Our staff is working to support students across our system who are struggling.  Sometimes that means finding ways to connect with these students in ways beyond remote learning. 

Great Barrington, MA — The Great Barrington Declaration, which offers an alternative COVID-19 national and global strategy, was penned by professors at Harvard, Oxford and Stanford universities on October 4, and released to the public October 5, calls for “focused protection” by letting young and low-risk populations carry on with their lives, while protecting the immune compromised and elderly.

It’s been discussed and debated since its early October release, but is it based on proper science?

The Declaration was written by Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, Dr. Sunetra Gupta and Dr. Martin Kulldorff. 

Dr. Martin Kulldorff is a professor of medicine at Harvard University, a biostatistician, and epidemiologist with expertise in detecting and monitoring infectious disease outbreaks and vaccine safety evaluations.

Dr. Sunetra Gupta is a professor at Oxford University, an epidemiologist with expertise in immunology, vaccine development, and mathematical modeling of infectious diseases.

Dr. Jay Bhattacharya is a professor at Stanford University Medical School, a physician, epidemiologist, health economist, and public health policy expert focusing on infectious diseases and vulnerable populations.

The declaration was signed by more than 40 other medical and public health scientists and medical practitioners worldwide.

“As immunity builds in the population, the risk of infection to all – including the vulnerable – falls,” the declaration authors write. “We know that all populations will eventually reach herd immunity – i.e. the point at which the rate of new infections is stable – and that this can be assisted by (but is not dependent upon) a vaccine. Our goal should therefore be to minimize mortality and social harm until we reach herd immunity.”

Who initiated the Declaration?

Dr Kulldorff invited Doctors Bhattacharya Gupta to Massachusetts to record a video outlining an alternative to the current COVID-19 strategy. While meeting, the three spontaneously decided to also write a short declaration to summarize their thinking. 

Why was the Declaration written?

The Declaration was written from a global public health and humanitarian perspective, with special concerns about how the current COVID-19 strategies are forcing children, the working class and the poor to carry the heaviest burden.

The full text of the Great Barrington Declaration

“The Great Barrington Declaration – As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies, and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection. 

“Coming from both the left and right, and around the world, we have devoted our careers to protecting people. Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health. The results (to name a few) include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health – leading to greater excess mortality in years to come, with the working class and younger members of society carrying the heaviest burden. Keeping students out of school is a grave injustice. 

“Keeping these measures in place until a vaccine is available will cause irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed.

“Fortunately, our understanding of the virus is growing. We know that vulnerability to death from COVID-19 is more than a thousand-fold higher in the old and infirm than the young. Indeed, for children, COVID-19 is less dangerous than many other harms, including influenza. 

”As immunity builds in the population, the risk of infection to all – including the vulnerable – falls. We know that all populations will eventually reach herd immunity – i.e.  the point at which the rate of new infections is stable – and that this can be assisted by (but is not dependent upon) a vaccine. Our goal should therefore be to minimize mortality and social harm until we reach herd immunity. 

“The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk. We call this Focused Protection. 

”Adopting measures to protect the vulnerable should be the central aim of public health responses to COVID-19. By way of example, nursing homes should use staff with acquired immunity and perform frequent PCR testing of other staff and all visitors. Staff rotation should be minimized. Retired people living at home should have groceries and other essentials delivered to their home. When possible, they should meet family members outside rather than inside. A comprehensive and detailed list of measures, including approaches to multi-generational households, can be implemented, and is well within the scope and capability of public health professionals. 

”Those who are not vulnerable should immediately be allowed to resume life as normal. Simple hygiene measures, such as hand washing and staying home when sick should be practiced by everyone to reduce the herd immunity threshold. Schools and universities should be open for in-person teaching. Extracurricular activities, such as sports, should be resumed. Young low-risk adults should work normally, rather than from home. Restaurants and other businesses should open. Arts, music, sport and other cultural activities should resume. People who are more at risk may participate if they wish, while society as a whole enjoys the protection conferred upon the vulnerable by those who have built up herd immunity.”

On October 4, 2020, this declaration was authored and signed in Great Barrington, United States, by:

Dr. Martin Kulldorff, professor of medicine at Harvard University, a biostatistician, and epidemiologist with expertise in detecting and monitoring infectious disease outbreaks and vaccine safety evaluations.

Dr. Sunetra Gupta, professor at Oxford University, an epidemiologist with expertise in immunology, vaccine development, and mathematical modeling of infectious diseases. 

Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, professor at Stanford University Medical School, a physician, epidemiologist, health economist, and public health policy expert focusing on infectious diseases and vulnerable populations.

Clark County Public Health Response

Lacamas Magazine asked Clark County Public Health to respond to the Great Barrington Declaration. This is their official statement:

“The way to herd immunity is through vaccination; not by letting people contract a deadly disease. And we are a long way from herd immunity.

”It’s estimated that less than 15 percent of the US population has been infected with COVID-19, yet more than 220,000 people have died. To reach herd immunity, we suspect we’ll need at least 60-70% of the population to become infected. That would mean millions of additional infections and several hundred thousand more deaths – and that’s if the immunity from a COVID-19 infection lasts. And for those who survive COVID-19, we still don’t know the lasting health impacts those individuals will endure.

“While the idea of isolating the vulnerable and opening up society for everyone else may sound appealing to some, it’s not practical. If the virus is spreading in a community, it can make its way to vulnerable populations. Young healthy people can and do contract COVID-19. Then they take it home to their family members, to school to their classmates and teachers, and to work to their colleagues. Vulnerable people still interact with others. They may live with other people or have caregivers. They still need groceries and medical care. They cannot be completely insulated from the rest of the community. We can protect our most vulnerable by wearing face coverings, maintaining physical distancing and practicing good hand hygiene – the things necessary for slowing the spread of the virus in our community.

”Tom Frieden, the CDC director from 2009 to 2017, wrote an opinion piece on herd immunity and COVID-19 for the Washington Post. It’s worth a read: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/tom-frieden-herd-immunity-wrong-solution-coronavirus/2020/10/16/acb4ae8a-0fe6-11eb-8074-0e943a91bf08_story.html

”For a look at herd immunity a little closer to home: The CDC is doing a large-scale geographic seroprevalence survey that looks for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies among people who had blood collected and tested by commercial labs in certain areas of the U.S. Western Washington is one of the regions. The latest data (samples collected July 6-7) show a seroprevalence estimate of 1.3%, and the seroprevalence has consistently been less than 2.5% in Western Washington. You can check out the data from the survey here: https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#serology-surveillance.”

Video Links

Do the three authors have any conflicts of interest? 

According to their website, Dr. Kulldorff works on research grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the non-profit Fund for Public Health in New York City, some of which is related to COVID-19. He has never accepted or received any funding from pharmaceutical companies, nor from any other large corporation. 

Dr. Bhattacharya research funding over the past 22 years of his career has come almost entirely from grants from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the US Department of Agriculture, and participation on contracts with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) via a government contracting research group, Acumen, LLC. He has never accepted or received any funding from pharmaceutical companies, nor from any other large corporation. 

Dr. Gupta’s research funding over the last 30 years has principally been through fellowships and investigator awards from the Wellcome Trust and the European Research Council.  She has also received funding from the UKRI, the Royal Society, the Leverhulme Trust, the Emily and Georg von Opel Foundation and the Oxford Martin School. She and Dr. Craig Thompson have developed a novel method for producing a universal influenza vaccine (derived from a mathematical model) and this has now been licensed and is going through early testing. She does not hold any consultancy contracts or stock shares in any commercial company. 

Other Responses

Critics of the declaration say the event where it was signed was hosted by the American Institute for Economic Research, a conservative free-market think tank located in Great Barrington, and is politically motivated.

“From a public health and ethical viewpoint, the fact that the Great Barrington Declaration is now the Trump administration’s official policy is deeply troubling,” Dr. Gavin Yamey, a physician and professor of global health and public policy at Duke University, wrote October 14 in TIME. He says this “letting the virus rip” approach is “dangerous and inhumane.”

The Infectious Diseases Society of America issued a statement denouncing the Great Barrington Declaration, calling the herd immunity strategy to COVID-19 “inappropriate, irresponsible, and ill-informed.”

The Director-General of the World Health Organization said during an October 12 media briefing: “Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic. It is scientifically and ethically problematic.”

The Great Barrington Declaration signers aren’t backing down, and continue to defend their positions.

The authors also acknowledge that many online signatures are not actual doctors or experts in this field.

Vancouver, WA — Clark County Public Health said today that “COVID-19 is spreading throughout our community at an alarming pace.” This week, the health department said the COVID-19 activity rate increased to more than 171 cases per 100,000 people over 14 days.

Disease transmission is occurring at an accelerated pace across the state, as well.

“As the holidays near, we’re concerned our case counts will continue to rise as people attend gatherings and spend more time indoors,” the health department said in a statement.

Health guidelines to disrupt this transmission in our community by taking simple steps to slow the spread of COVID-19 include the following:

  • Wear a face covering anytime you’re around people you don’t live with (even friends and family).
  • Maintain physical distancing.
  • Stay home as much as possible.
  • Limit the number, size and frequency of gatherings – and only attend gatherings that are essential.
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Stay home if you’re sick.

Tuesday COVID-19 update

  • 166 new cases (5,783 cases to date)
  • 4 new deaths (77 to date)
  • 349 active cases
  • Rate is 171.55 cases per 100,000 (up from 131.42 cases per 100,000 last week)
  • 45 COVID-19 patients hospitalized
  • 8 persons under investigation (PUIs) for COVID-19 hospitalized

The four deaths we’re reporting today are as follows:

  • Man in his 70s with no underlying health conditions
  • Man 80+ years old with underlying health conditions
  • Man in his 70s with no underlying health conditions
  • Woman in her 70s with underlying health conditions

The health department also put out this reminder about active cases: This reflects the number of confirmed cases who are currently in their isolation period. For most people, isolation is based on when symptoms began, not when they received the positive test result. Some individuals learn they are COVID-19 positive and only have a few days of isolation remaining.