COVID-19 case rates skyrocket on Olympic Peninsula

Health officer reiterates need for vaccinations

The North Olympic Peninsula public health officer continues to urge residents to get vaccinated for COVID-19 as case numbers and case rates soar higher than ever.

“We are begging the community to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” said Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties. “It is the biggest thing we can do to protect our community.”

Clallam County on Tuesday set a record high for its case rate of 532 per 100,000 population for the past two weeks as of Tuesday.

Jefferson County calculates its case rate weekly, and it reported its highest case rate on Monday of 263.32 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Saturday.

“There are certainly places where it’s worse, but it’s certainly the highest we’ve ever had,” Berry said.

Clallam County confirmed 42 new cases Tuesday, raising its total to 2,271 cases since the pandemic began, according to public health data.

Jefferson County confirmed six Tuesday, raising its total to 646 cases since the pandemic began, according to public health data.

The statewide case rate is 481 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Monday.

Many counties throughout the state have higher case rates than those on the Peninsula, according to state Department of Health data.

The COVID-19 outbreak at the Clallam Bay Corrections Center remained at three staff members and three inmates. Officials are hopeful they’ll be able to limit the spread there, Berry said.

Also at the corrections center, three inmates have tested positive for tuberculosis, and officials are working to prevent further spread of that disease there as well, Berry said.

“Tuberculosis can happen in jails and congregate settings like that,” she said. “It’s uncommon in our area, thankfully, but we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to contain that.”

Since the start of the fifth wave of infections and the beginning of vaccine mandates for health care, state and school employees, a slight increase in vaccinations has been seen, but it isn’t enough to slow the spread of the highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19, Berry said.

“We are seeing a slow uptick in vaccinations, but no mass surge in vaccinations, unfortunately, at this point,” Berry said.

Data compiled by the state Department of Health shows that, in Jefferson County, 76.4 percent of residents 12 and older have initiated vaccinations, 72.8 percent are fully vaccinated, with 70.2 percent of the total population having started vaccinations and 67 percent fully vaccinated, according to the state’s dashboard.

Clallam County has vaccinated 67.2 percent of residents 12 and older with at least one dose, while 62.1 percent are fully vaccinated. At the same time, 59.7 percent of the total population has begun vaccinations and 55.2 percent of all residents are fully vaccinated, according to the state’s dashboard.

Seven people are currently hospitalized for COVID-19 in Clallam County, with three in the Intensive Care Unit. One person is hospitalized in Jefferson County, Berry said.

With rising case numbers, Berry continues to urge residents to get tested for COVID-19 if they’re sick, get vaccinated as soon as possible, practice social distancing and wear face masks indoors.

“We’ve successfully beaten back four waves of COVID-19 and this fifth wave is just the largest we’ve ever seen,” Berry said. “We’re doing everything we can to decrease it, but we’re just trying to limit the damage from it until we can see the benefit of people increasing their masking.”

Twenty people have died from COVID-19 in Clallam County, while four people have died in Jefferson County since the pandemic began.

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]

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