2 more deaths due to COVID-19

Peninsula counties still at high risk

Two North Olympic Peninsula people died last week from COVID-19, according to regional health departments.

The deceased in Clallam County was an unvaccinated man in his 60s while a woman in her 70s, who had been vaccinated but not boosted, died in Jefferson County, according to Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties. She said both had underlying health conditions that contributed to their deaths.

The deaths raised the total number on the Peninsula since the pandemic began to 143 — 113 in Clallam County and 30 in Jefferson County.

As of Friday, three people were hospitalized in Clallam County with COVID-19.

On Friday, Clallam County reported 13,167 total cases since the pandemic began, which is up 163 cases since June 6, with a case rate of 676 per 100,000 population.

Jefferson County reported 4,331 cases since the pandemic began, which is up 120 cases since June 6, with a case rate of 805 per 100,000.

Case rates are a reflection of cases reported during a two-week period. They are computed using a formula based on 100,000 population even for counties that do not have 100,000 people living in them.

Both counties remain in the high-risk category, in which health officials recommend masking indoors, even for those who are vaccinated.

“For graduation activities, the safest choice is to hold celebrations outside. Otherwise, wearing a good quality mask indoors is strongly recommended,” Berry said.

Berry recommenced the same when traveling this summer, especially with the Biden administration lifting the testing requirement for international air travelers on Friday.

The Biden administration had required that international travelers test negative for COVID-19 within a day before boarding a flight to the United States.

Lifting that requirement early Sunday ended one of the last remaining government mandates designed to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it will continue to monitor the state of the pandemic and will reassess the need for a testing requirement if the situation changes.

Roger Dow, president of the U.S. Travel Association, called lifting the testing rule “another huge step forward for the recovery of inbound air travel and the return of international travel to the United States.”

Airlines had argued that the rule was put into effect when few Americans were vaccinated — now 71 percent of those 5 and older are fully vaccinated, according to CDC figures. They also complained that people entering the U.S. at land borders are not required to test negative for COVID-19, although they must show proof of vaccination.

While domestic U.S. travel has returned nearly to pre-pandemic levels, international travel — which is very lucrative for the airlines — has continued to lag. In May, U.S. international air travel remained 24 percent below 2019 levels, with declines among both U.S. and foreign citizens, according to trade group Airlines for America.

Many other countries have lifted their testing requirements for fully vaccinated and boosted travelers in a bid to increase tourism.

Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University said the rule was designed to prevent importing the virus, “but we’ve got plenty of COVID here. It’s like telling someone not to pour a bucket of water in their swimming pool.”

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Reporter Ken Park can be reached by email at [email protected]

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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