Berry: It feels like the dam is breaking

State help needed to keep up with contact tracing

The current COVID-19 infection rates on the North Olympic Peninsula are mirroring the surge seen during the 2020 Thanksgiving holiday season, and officials are struggling to keep up with contact tracing.

“At this point, it feels like the dam is breaking,” said Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Jefferson and Clallam counties.

Due to the high level of cases, local contract tracers must rely on help from the state, Berry said.

“We have numerous outbreaks throughout the county, in workplace settings primarily at this point, so it’s not just travel related anymore,” she said.

“It’s straining our public health system at this point.

“We don’t have adequate contact tracing capacity for all the cases that are coming in,” she continued.

“We’re prioritizing cases that are a high risk — cases in health care settings, cases in congregate settings — and the rest of the cases are being sent to the state,” she continued.

“We are reaching the limit of contract tracing’s ability to control infection.”

Clallam County confirmed 15 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday, while Jefferson County added nine new cases, according to county public health data.

Clallam County’s case rate rose to 209 cases per 100,000 population for the last two weeks as of Thursday. That approaches the highest case rate the county has seen — 216 cases per 100,000 — which was recorded in November, Berry said.

Jefferson County has reached 147.34 cases per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Saturday, the second highest case rate it has reported since the pandemic began, Berry said.

Jefferson County’s highest case rate of 156 per 100,000 was also recorded last November during the holiday season surge, Berry said.

Community mitigation measures such as mask wearing, limiting indoor interactions and social distancing are needed in addition to contact tracing to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, Berry said.

“We’re going to keep fighting it,” Berry said. “We’re not giving up. Certainly our staff are frantically contact tracing as we speak, but we’re reaching the limit of our ability.”

There are currently discussions among the state and the health officers about what other mitigation measures they might impose, but no plans have been made yet, Berry said.

The majority of new infections are among unvaccinated residents, with about 8 percent of cases since mid-January being breakthrough cases in Clallam County and 6 percent being breakthroughs in Jefferson, Berry said.

A breakthrough case is infection with COVID-19 in a person who has had a final dose of vaccine more than weeks earlier.

Berry has been urging all residents 12 and older who are not yet vaccinated against COVID-19 and can be, to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Data compiled by the state Department of Health shows that in Jefferson County, 75.1 percent of residents 12 and older have initiated vaccinations, 71.9 percent are fully vaccinated, and 69.1 percent of the total population has started vaccinations, and 66.2 percent are fully vaccinated, according to the state’s dashboard.

Clallam County has vaccinated 65.3 percent of residents 12 and older with at least one dose, with 60.8 percent fully vaccinated, while 58 percent of the total population has begun vaccinations with 54 percent fully vaccinated, according to the state’s dashboard.

2021 has already more than doubled 2020 for more cases of COVID-19 being confirmed in both counties, with Clallam County having 1,759 total COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, and on Jan. 1, the total number of cases was 756, Berry said.

Jefferson County has a total of 534 cases as of Thursday, after starting the year at 229 confirmed cases, Berry said.

“Things getting quite serious quite quickly,” Berry said. “We’re really going to need the whole community to come together to get this under control.

“We can do it. We’ve done it before, but we’re going to need the community to take this seriously.”

Seventeen people have died from COVID-19 in Clallam County and four have died in Jefferson County.

_______

Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]

More in News

Clallam County removes ‘relic’ ordinance

Clallam County commissioners removed a 46-year-old ordinance regarding licensing… Continue reading

Clallam COVID cases trending downward as expected

Clallam County’s rate of new COVID-19 cases continues trending… Continue reading

Grant applications accepted for small businesses, nonprofits

Applications for the Working Washington Grants: Round 5 and new… Continue reading

Derek Kilmer helps Port Angeles Food Bank Executive Director Emily Dexter fill up the shelves with some crackers inside “The Market”. (Dave Logan/for Peninsula Daily News)
Port Angeles Food Bank services well-used

Expanded facility aims to revert to grocery store model soon

U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, second from left, tours Olympic Medical Center on Monday, hearing from hospital leadership CEO Darryl Wolfe, left of Kilmer; and, to the right, Human Resources Manager Jennifer Burkhardt and Communications Manager Bobby Beeman. (Ken Park/Peninsula Daily News)
Site-neutral ruling topic of discussion during tour

Olympic Medical Center reimbursements at issue

Julie Jaman, the 80-year-old woman at the center of a controversy around transgender access to bathrooms, speaks at a protest across from Port Townsend City Hall on Monday. Jaman was banned from the local pool after she confronted a transgender woman in the locker room, and the event has gained national attention. Jaman and her supporters were surrounded by protestors Monday evening who shouted and made noise while they tried to speak, and scuffles broke out between the two groups. (Peter Segall / Peninsula Daily News)
Transgender proclamation draws hundreds to meeting

Protesters clash outside Port Townsend City Hall

Observable sheen from oil spill shrinks

No effect seen on wildlife, Coast Guard says

A giant Pacific octopus swims in its tank at Feiro Marine Science Center at Port Angeles City Pier while fans of the creature cast ballots for a name in an online poll, which ended Thursday afternoon. Octomatic was the people’s choice with 54.1 percent of 1,123 votes cast, winning out over Olive with 39 percent, Cranberry with 3.9 percent, Toby with 2 percent and Bobbie with 0.9 percent. The octopus, which was captured in Agate Bay north of Joyce, will reside at Feiro until it reaches maturity, and then it will be released in the area of where it was found. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Octopus named

A giant Pacific octopus swims in its tank at Feiro Marine Science… Continue reading

Monkeypox vaccine coming to Clallam County

COVID-19 case rates trending downward

Most Read