COVID-19 case rates continue downward trend

Masking is still recommended indoors, in schools

COVID-19 case rates on the North Olympic Peninsula are continuing on a downward trend despite new positives over the weekend.

Clallam County added 22 new COVID-19 cases, bringing its total from 10,853 to 10,875 since the pandemic began. Despite the increase, the county’s case rate dropped from 171 per 100,000 population during the past two weeks to 132 per 100,000.

Jefferson County added six new COVID-19 cases, bringing its total from 3,124 to 3,130 since the pandemic began. The county’s case rate was at 189 per 100,000 on Friday. It will be updated again this Friday.

“I do anticipate that these rates will continue to go downward in the coming weeks,” said Dr. Allison Berry, the health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties.

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.

Although it is not mandated, masking is still being recommended by Berry and other health officials across the state until case rates drop below 100 per 100,000 cases.

“We do encourage all of our citizens to wear masks indoors when we are above the 100 per 100,000 cases threshold, especially in any space where there are a lot of people around and you don’t know their vaccination status,” Berry said.

Berry also strongly recommends masking in schools due to low vaccination rates among kids.

“We recommend masking in public schools right now because there are so many kids in particular who are not vaccinated, so we recommend masking in that setting until we get our case numbers lower,” Berry said.

According to the state Department of Health dashboard, 30 percent of Jefferson County children ages 5-11 and 53 percent of those 12-17 are fully vaccinated, while in Clallam County, 22 percent of children ages 5-11 and 46 percent of those 12-17 are fully vaccinated.

Berry was asked Monday about the potential for a fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine being recommended, specifically for those who received the Pfizer version, as she provided an update to the Board of Jefferson County Commissioners.

“There was a speech given by the CEO of Pfizer saying that a fourth dose would be needed,” she said. “I think it’s important to acknowledge that, that message is coming from the Pfizer CEO and not the CDC or Washington State Department of Health.”

“We have not yet recommended a broad fourth dose for the general population,” Berry said. “We do recommend fourth doses for people that are immunosuppressed, many of whom are just now eligible for that fourth dose.”

Berry also noted there are some countries recommending fourth doses for their elderly populations, people generally 75 and older.

“We have not moved forward with that yet in this country,” Berry said. “We have not seen enough data to suggest that vaccine efficacy is actually significantly waning in that population.”

Berry added there will likely be COVID-19 case increases this fall and that masking will likely be more recommended then, but there is not likely to be another mandate unless hospitals and other services become overrun.

“Very likely we will recommend masking this fall because we are very likely to see a spike in cases,” she said. “We are largely transitioning away from mandates to recommendations, which is really more our bread and butter in public health. The trigger that would bring about mandates would be if we see such a significant surge that we start to see critical infrastructure fail again.”

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

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