Two deaths due to COVID-19 were confirmed over the weekend in Clallam County, raising the total number to 53 in the county and 69 for the North Olympic Peninsula since the pandemic began.
The most recent deaths include a man in his 70s who was unvaccinated and a man in his 80s who was fully vaccinated but had underlying conditions, said Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties.
Jefferson County did not report any deaths over the weekend. It has had 16 attributed to COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
Separately, nine students in Brinnon were found to be infected with the virus after Berry and her team with Jefferson County Public Health completed an investigation into potential transmission within the cluster.
The cases are among students who are too young to be vaccinated, and some of the cases are believed to have been contracted while the students were riding on long bus rides to and from the school district, Berry said.
As of Monday, it was not considered an outbreak because the students had multiple overlaps in interactions in and out of school between family and friends, Berry said.
Since it’s a very rural district, many students are on the bus for a significant amount of time and have no other options on how they can get to school, Berry said.
“The school has been doing a really good job with testing and tracing, and so we’re not looking at having to close classrooms or the school,” Berry said. “The biggest risk appears to be just having to take the bus for a long period of time.
“We’re not actually seeing classroom spread, just busing. It’s hard to call it a definitive outbreak in this community, just because there is so much overlap in and out of the classroom.”
The bus rides pose an increased risk to virus transmission because the students are in one confined place for so long, Berry said. However, the school district has been maintaining strict COVID-19 prevention protocols, she added.
“They’re doing all the right stuff,” Berry said. “There’s spacing in the school. Their masking is great.
“But these kids are too young to be vaccinated, and for buses, it’s just a very transmissible virus in a closed environment like that.”
On Monday, Jefferson County added 14 cases from Saturday and Sunday, and Clallam County added 69 COVID-19 cases, according to county public health data.
Clallam County has confirmed a total of 4,352 cases since the pandemic began. Jefferson County has confirmed 1,019 cases, public health data said.
Both counties have seen a downward trend in new cases start to plateau, Berry said.
Clallam County’s case rate dropped slightly on Monday to 586 cases per 100,000 population for the past two weeks. On Friday, the county recorded a case rate of 637 per 100,000 for the rolling two-week period.
Jefferson County maintained its case rate at 275.86 cases per 100,000 for the past two weeks as of Saturday.
Virus transmission on the Peninsula is shifting again, changing from the widespread community transmission that was seen throughout late August and September, Berry said.
In Jefferson County, transmission primarily is being driven by out-of-county or out-of-state travel or by having visitors, Berry said.
In Clallam County, community transmission is primarily occurring in the West End, she said.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]