COVID-19 cases rise among young

In week 55 of the pandemic — and week two of spring — COVID-19 cases are trending up among children and teenagers, reported Dr. Allison Berry, Clallam County health officer.

“Children are not protected by our current vaccines,” Berry noted, adding that immunizations for kids younger than 16 may not be available until fall.

As of Saturday, Clallam’s reported case total since the pandemic’s onset reached 1,049. Of those, 180 were among people age 19 and younger. Twelve of these cases have appeared in the past two weeks, Berry said.

“Family gatherings are the way most of these kids are getting infected,” she said, adding that springtime travel means added risks.

After traveling out of state, people should quarantine for 10 days at home, she said — unless the traveler was fully immunized well before departure.

“Driving is better than flying,” Berry said; “if you’re going to fly, wear a good mask,” and wash your hands repeatedly, especially after going through security.

In Jefferson County, two age groups have suffered the majority of the 344 COVID-19 cases reported over the past year. There have been 69 infections identified among youngsters age 0 to 19. Among people age 30 to 49, the case count is 82.

For four days straight, no new cases have been identified, Jefferson County health officer Dr. Tom Locke said Saturday.

This is also the week when a few live music events have appeared, including the “Save the Bob” concert last Friday at Studio Bob in Port Angeles and a back-deck gig next Saturday with Jonathan Doyle and Jack Dwyer at the Keg & I in Chimacum.

The risk “all depends on the behaviors. If you’re ill, stay away. If you’ve been exposed or you’re vaguely symptomatic, get tested,” Locke said.

“But if you are following distancing rules, and if you wear a high-quality mask,” attending a live music event is a fairly low-risk activity. What will make it enormously safer, he said, is when many more people are vaccinated.

Starting Wednesday, a new group becomes eligible for COVID shots. This phase includes those 60 and older as well as people working in restaurants, manufacturing and construction. Those working or living in congregate care facilities such as prisons and group homes also will join the eligible population, as will anyone 16 or older with a high-risk condition such as diabetes or lung disease or a history of cancer.

Appointments for Jefferson Healthcare’s clinic can be made at https://jeffersonhealthcare.org/covid-19-vaccine, and people are asked to fill out the Phase Finder tool. They don’t need to bring the printed sheet to be vaccinated. Those without internet access can phone for an appointment at 360-344-9791.

The Jamestown Sequim Clinics offer vaccinations for Clallam residents 18 and older, with appointments at http://vaccine.clallam.net/register or 360-417-2430.

To find other vaccination sites by ZIP code, see https://vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov/.

While the flow of vaccine will stay steady into Clallam County in the coming two to three weeks, it will slow down in Jefferson County, Locke noted. Allocations to Jefferson Healthcare, local pharmacies and the county public health department have been reaching 1,800 first doses per week; he expects that to be trimmed by several hundred. Vaccinations at Chimacum High School will be paused this weekend.

Yet “it’s hard for us to cry foul. The reality is we started earlier than everyone else. We were going full bore,” with clinics across the county.

After the temporary reduction, “we think projections on supply are really favorable,” Locke added.

“We’ll go from scarcity to glut sometime in May. Then we really want to make this big final mass vaccination push,” to include as many as 600 shots per day at the Chimacum School site.

“People think we’re being dramatic when we say we’re in a race against the variants,” said Locke, “but we are. And it’s a race we can win,” if mass vaccination carries on.

“Get vaccinated as soon as you are eligible,” added Berry.

As a community, “if we keep distancing and keep being thoughtful about masking and not gathering … we could really be done with this by the summer.”

Gathering now, Berry said, will mean the pandemic will last much longer.

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