Clallam County adds two deaths due to COVID-19

Case rates on decline, official says

Two Clallam County residents died from COVID-19 over the weekend, bringing the county’s total from the virus to 104 deaths since the pandemic began.

The victims were both men in their 80s. One was unvaccinated and the other vaccinated but not boosted with underlying conditions, said Dr. Allison Berry, the health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties.

No new deaths were reported in Jefferson County. Its death toll from the virus remained at 28.

Both counties’ case rates dropped over the weekend, reaching closer to the benchmark of 200 cases per 100,000 population for lifting both the proof-of-vaccination mandate for indoor dining on March 11 and the statewide masking mandate on March 12.

“I do think it’s reasonable to move forward with lifting those requirements at the same time that the state lifts the masking mandate,” Berry said. “It’s not as perfect of a number as I would like to see, but I just don’t think it will be tenable to maintain mandates longer than the state.”

Clallam County’s case rate as of Monday was 230 cases per 100,000. The county added 33 new cases over the weekend, bringing its total since the pandemic began from 10,800 to 10,833.

Jefferson County’s case rate, which was 385 per 100,000, will be updated on Friday.

The county added 12 cases over the weekend, bringing its total since the pandemic began from 3,091 to 3,103 on Monday.

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.

“We are in the process of transitioning from the pandemic response to the endemic response,” Berry said.

Berry explained that, during an endemic phase, health officials believe the disease will not impact social infrastructure in the way the pandemic phase did.

“We are transitioning to a period in our response where we don’t think COVID-19 is going to have critical parts of our infrastructure,” she said. “We don’t think COVID-19 is going to overwhelm our healthcare system, our county government, or those who fix the roads. We think society can continue to function with this level of disease we have right now.”

Primarily, this is where the healthcare system moves from mandates, like masking and vaccination, to recommendations, Berry said.

“The primary basis for mandates is keeping society functioning, so that’s why you are seeing this transition from mandates to recommendations,” she said. “So we are moving to not mandating masks in indoor spaces, but we are still recommending them, and the primary reason we are still recommending them is our case rates are still really high.”

Berry noted that while the indoor masking mandate will be lifted statewide on Friday, some businesses may choose to still enforce mandates in their businesses to protect employees or customers that are at high risk.

“It’s still within the purview of any business to maintain those mandates, and I think it’s important for all of us to acknowledge that,” Berry said. “There will likely be businesses in our community that will continue to require masking or proof of vaccination or both, and to support and understand that.

“It is a risky move as a business to do that; people know that people are going to get mad at them. Any time I have seen a business do this, it’s because they have someone who works there that is in the high-risk category, so they are making that decision to protect their employee and their family.”

Hospitalizations in both counties also are trending downward.

Five Clallam County residents were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Monday. Two were at Olympic Medical Center and one was in the intensive care unit. One Clallam resident is currently in the ICU at Jefferson Healthcare while the remaining two residents are in ICUs outside the county.

Three Jefferson County residents were hospitalized with COVID-19, all of whom were in hospitals outside the county. Two were in the ICU.

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Reporter Ken Park can be reached by email at kpark@peninsuladailynews.com.

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