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A heavy increase in COVID-19 cases within Kittitas County over the weekend is causing a strain on the county’s ability to conduct contact tracing, adding to the existing stress placed on public health resources according to county health officials.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, the county recorded 115 new cases and currently has 212 active cases going into December. Kittitas County Public Health Department Public Information Officer Kasey Knutson said the county has been averaging slightly over 100 cases prior to the increase. The county also recorded its 23rd death related to the pandemic last week. Although she had no further details to provide on the individual, Knutson said they were not associated with a long-term care facility.

As Kittitas County Public Health Officer Dr. Mark Larson recently said in a public forum he expected an increase in cases towards the end of November, Knutson said the numbers don’t come as a surprise. She said the major challenge comes with keeping up with contact tracing and investigation efforts.

“At over 200 active cases being managed, that’s a lot of work in addition to the contacts and all the additional information that team has to do,” she said. “That’s the major focus.”

With winter setting in and predictions for case increases throughout the nation beginning to materialize, Knutson said the county’s Incident Management Team will continue to respond to the needs of the community.

“We’ll be putting out messaging and trying to get people to make the most informed, safe decisions they can as we move through this holiday season,” she said.

Knutson urged community members to make sure they have their flu shot, saying it will help relieve pressure on the county’s healthcare system. With stress from the pandemic colliding with the holiday season, she said it is also important to reach out to others for support regarding mental health.

“Get outside,” she said. “Make sure your neighbors are doing OK. Make sure you’re doing OK. Reach out for help. There’s going to be a lot of people that aren’t used to having some potential mental health issues, so they might be hesitant to reach out for help. Reach out to someone you trust. The holidays are hard enough, and now we have a pandemic.”

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