Authorities warn of omicron surge

Peninsula health officer urges vaccinations

Omicron is surging in some counties along the Interstate 5 corridor and it is only a matter of time before it is discovered on the North Olympic Peninsula, authorities say.

“If you haven’t been vaccinated, now is a really good time to do so,” said Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Jefferson and Clallam counties.

“If you are fully vaccinated and you are eligible for a booster … that’s going to be the biggest thing you can do to get yourself protected,” she added Tuesday.

Berry also encouraged folks to be mindful of friends or family members who may not be able to get vaccinated, such as young children, or who have other underlying health issues that could increase their susceptibility to the COVID-19 virus.

“When you are holding gatherings, you want to make sure that everyone is as vaccinated as possible, preferably fully vaccinated,” she said.

“If you are going to have any unvaccinated folks at your gatherings, I would really recommend adding an antigen test.”

Antigen tests are available at pharmacies as at-home tests, although they can be hard to find and cost at least $20 for two tests, according to national news sources.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday updated its guidance on the use of at-home COVID tests, suggesting people use the self-tests before getting together indoors with members of other households and noting the tests can be used regardless of vaccination status or whether someone is experiencing symptoms.

Authorities suggest that people test themselves as closely to the beginning of the gathering as possible.

The advice is given as Clallam County experiences a rise of 15 confirmed cases from Monday to Tuesday, bringing the total reported since the pandemic began to 5,503 from 5,488 and the county’s case rate from 292 per 100,000 to 296 per 100,000.

No additional deaths were reported in the county, which has had 78 people die of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

Seven have been hospitalized with the virus.

Jefferson County added eight newly confirmed cases on Tuesday, bringing its numbers from 1,358 on Monday to 1,366 on Tuesday.

The county’s case rate remains at 165 per 100,000 with no new deaths and at least one of two people being released from the hospital following treatment for COVID-19.

Officials said Saturday that the first three cases of the omicron coronavirus variant have been confirmed in Washington state. The cases were found in Thurston, Pierce and King counties, according to the state Department of Health.

Early data from the University of Washington reported Monday by Pavitra Roychoudhury, who coordinates variant testing efforts at the UW School of Medicine’s virology lab, indicates that the omicron variant may already be spreading rapidly in Washington state.

The data are from samples analyzed by a quick method, and will need to be confirmed, according to news sources. The data suggests that omicron was present in 29 of 217 COVID-19 positive samples collected on Dec. 8 — about 13 percent of cases.

Omicron is considered to be spreading rapidly through the nation and could become the predominant variant of the coronavirus in the United States “on the order of weeks” over the delta variant, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said Tuesday.

CDC data released Tuesday showed that omicron now makes up 3 percent of all sequenced cases of COVID-19 across the country.

The variant is considered to be much more transmissible than the delta variant that is most common in the U.S. now.

Two doses of the existing vaccines still provide some immunity against the new variant, and a third “booster” dose provides strong protection, national authorities say.


Reporter Ken Park can be reached at

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