Peninsula College announced Thursday that it is requiring all student and employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning to campuses in Port Angeles, Port Townsend and Forks for the fall quarter.
The news comes as Clallam County confirms 19 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, while Jefferson County confirms six new cases. Most of the new cases are primarily tied to travel by unvaccinated residents, said Dr. Allison Berry, Clallam and Jefferson County health officer, in a text message.
Also, it has been learned that on Sunday, Jefferson Healthcare confirmed a break-through case of a fully vaccinated staff member testing positive for COVID-19.
To be considered fully vaccinated, Peninsula College students and employees must self-attest that they received the final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at least two weeks before the start of fall quarter. Employees must verify their vaccination or exemption with the college by Sept. 7, and students by Sept. 20, college officials announced in a press release Thursday.
Waivers will be provided for specific exemptions. Those claiming an exemption must agree to wear face coverings and practice social distancing inside Peninsula College buildings.
No documents will be required to verify vaccination status, the release said.
Students enrolled exclusively in online or virtual classes are not required to verify their vaccination status.
Officials are now working on a way to collect vaccination data by the start of fall quarter.
After the fully-vaccinated staff member tested positive to the coronavirus, Jefferson Healthcare in Port Townsend immediately started contact tracing all potential staff — about 30 people — and the two patients the nurse came in contact with and all 32 tested negative, said Amy Yaley, hospital spokesperson.
After investigating and finding the staff members have been wearing proper personal protective equipment (PPE), it’s believed the staff member contracted the virus outside of the hospital, Yaley said.
The nurse is now isolating at home with mild symptoms, Yaley said.
A total of nine staff members have been infected at Jefferson Healthcare since than pandemic began and all are believed to have contracted the virus outside of work, Yaley said.
“We continue to use universal masking and extra cleaning precautions to keep everyone safe and healthy for both our community and our staff, Yaley said.
Olympic medical Center is pulling data together and will release it soon. No information was available from Forks Community Hospital on Thursday.
Peninsula College made the decision to require vaccinations after Gov. Jay Inslee issued a series of proclamations, starting June 30 and through July, lifting restrictions on colleges who require vaccinations for students and employees, as well as recommendations from Clallam County Public Health, the release said.
“After numerous meetings, conversations, and gathering campus feedback, we made the decision to move to a vaccinated campus this fall,” college President Luke Robins said. “We are moving forward with the health and safety of our students and staff foremost in our minds.”
Proclamation 20-12.3, released by the governor’s office, says that colleges that require vaccines will be allowed to dispense with social distancing requirements, as well as masking requirements for fully vaccinated individuals.
Peninsula College will require everyone to mask up indoors until herd immunity — as determined by the Clallam and Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry — is achieved.
Fall quarter registration has begun. Courses now listed as online will remain virtual but in-person classes may be expanded due to higher capacity available now that social distancing is not required, officials said.
The college will continue to offer online and virtual classes, and services wherever possible. More information will be added to the College’s COVID-19 webpage as it becomes available.
Clallam County’s case rate is 145 cases per 100,000 population for the past two weeks as of Thursday. Jefferson County had a case rate of 72.1 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Saturday.
Clallam County is in the state’s high-risk category, while Jefferson County is at the high end of the moderate-risk category.
Clallam County has confirmed 186 COVID-19 cases so far this month, about 11.26 percent of the 1,652 cases reported since the pandemic began, according to county data. Seventeen residents have died of the disease.
Jefferson County has confirmed 58 COVID-19 cases so far this month, about 11.42 percent of the 508 cases reported since the start of the pandemic, according to county public health data. Four residents have died of the virus.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]