Clallam County confirmed on Tuesday a new death caused by COVID-19, raising the total number of deaths due to the virus in the county to 21 and the total on the North Olympic Peninsula to 25.
Officials also on Tuesday were responding to two long-term care outbreaks, with one in Jefferson County and the other in Clallam County, said Dr. Allison Berry, North Olympic Peninsula health officer.
The most recent death was a man in his 60s who was not vaccinated against COVID-19 and who had underlying health conditions. He died from the novel coronavirus on Tuesday, Berry said.
Four deaths from COVID-19 have been confirmed in Jefferson County since the pandemic began, she said.
Public health officials in Jefferson County are responding to a long-term care facility outbreak that has so far confirmed four cases of COVID-19. Clallam County public health officials reported a long-term care facility outbreak that had confirmed seven cases, with six residents and one staff member infected, Berry said.
Officials also were tracking two potential outbreaks at long-term care facilities in Clallam County; however, each facility had only individual cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday, Berry said.
Long-term care facilities close their doors to the public when authorities are investigating an outbreak, and as such, the public isn’t at risk of exposure, Berry said when asked to identify the facilities with outbreaks.
The facilities also are required to notify residents’ families and emergency contacts of residents who have been exposed to COVID-19, Berry said.
“That is one case where you can say if you have not received a notification, then your friend or family member is not in one of these facilities,” Berry said.
Berry also said: “We don’t list the locations where our cases live and work if there are other ways to prevent further transmission related to them. When it comes to long-term care, for example, that is someone’s home, that is where they live, and we are very cautious to not release the addresses of our cases.
“Unfortunately, we have an unfortunate history in (Clallam County) of harassing people who are diagnosed with COVID-19, and we don’t want to see that happen to our cases, and we want to know that they will feel safe talking to us,” Berry said.
She added there had been many such cases, “including one egregious case of threatening a child.”
Berry added the primary reason she doesn’t identify most other places experiencing outbreaks — such as bars and restaurants — is because she fears doing so would give some people a false sense of security that makes them believe they know where COVID-19 cases are, and if they avoid that one specific place, they’d be safe.
That’s not the reality, Berry said.
“Any indoor environment where you have unvaccinated people who are taking off their masks, you are at significant risk of getting COVID-19,” Berry said. “That’s the kind of degree of transmission we’re getting.
“Since we only catch about one in 10 cases right now, there are so many in those indoor environments that you’re never going to know about until you get sick.”
Clallam County confirmed 37 new cases on Tuesday, while Jefferson County confirmed 10 new cases, according to county public health data.
Clallam county has confirmed a total of 993 cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of August, while Jefferson County has confirmed 179 cases.
Clallam County has confirmed 2,703 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began. Jefferson County has confirmed 695 cases.
Clallam County’s new case rate is 850 per 100,000 population for the past two weeks as of Tuesday.
Jefferson County reports its case rate once a week; on Monday, the county reported a rate of 247.65 cases per 100,000 for the past two weeks as of Saturday.
As of 6 a.m. Tuesday, Olympic Medical Center (OMC) in Port Angeles had 56 hospitalized inpatients, including 17 hospitalized for COVID-19, the hospital said in Facebook post Tuesday.
Two Clallam residents were hospitalized out of the county, Berry said.
Of the 17 hospitalized at OMC, four are fully vaccinated and 13 are not, and the most seriously ill patients have not been vaccinated, said Bobby Beeman, hospital spokesperson.
As of Tuesday, OMC had postponed all non-urgent surgeries, including surgical patients who come through the Short Stay clinic.
“We have postponed, or, when possible, moved to another location many medical procedures, but we do continue to provide certain medical procedures to Short Stay patients that are necessary,” Beeman said.
As of Tuesday morning, OMC had two Intensive Care Unit beds, one telemetry and five surgical beds available, Beeman said.
“If what we’ve seen across the nation holds true, we anticipate seeing increased hospitalizations over the next several weeks, since hospitalizations tend to occur, on average, about two weeks from initial infection,” OMC’s post said. “Our staff continues to do amazing work in the face of a trying environment.
“They tirelessly provide safe, quality care to our patients. If you get an opportunity to thank a health care worker or a first responder, please consider doing so.”
Statewide, 92.7 percent of COVID-19 cases from Feb. 1 to Aug. 16 were not fully vaccinated. Of those hospitalized for COVID-19 statewide between Feb. 1 and Aug. 9, a total of 94.1 percent were not fully vaccinated, state data said.
Of those who died from COVID-19 statewide between Feb. 1 and July 26, a total of 92.4 percent were not fully vaccinated, state data said.
Local breakdowns for that data aren’t as available because of the comparatively small population on the Peninsula. A small sample size can skew percentage data so it does not reflect the true nature of the situation, Berry said.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]