COVID-19 cases rise on Peninsula

Health officer expects peak soon

A combined total of 365 more cases of COVID-19 were reported in Clallam and Jefferson counties on Thursday and Friday.

Two more deaths were reported on Friday, both of Clallam County residents. One was a woman in her 80s who was vaccinated, but not boosted and who was in hospice care for underlying illnesses. The other was an unvaccinated man in his 60s. Berry said it is unknown whether he had underlying health conditions that contributed to his death.

Clallam County continues to report greater increases than neighboring Jefferson County.

However,as numbers increase, case rates are going down, said Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties.

Case rates are a measure of cases over the most recent two-week period.

As of Friday, Clallam County had 8, 533 confirmed cases of COVID-19, a 242-case increase from Wednesday’s 8,291.

Clallam County’s case rate dropped to 2,022 per 100,000 population from 2,180 per 100,000 reported Wednesday.

Jefferson County saw an increase of 123 cases, bringing its total to 2,268 from 2,145 on Wednesday.

The county’s case rate — which is updated weekly — on Friday was at, 1,397 per 100,000 whereas the week before it was at 1,460 per 100,000.

Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties, expects that cases, hospitalizations and deaths will continue to climb in the coming weeks, but that case rates will continue to drop.

“We are likely at our peak this week,” Berry said Thursday, which was the two-year anniversary of the first COVID-19 cases discovered in Washington state.

“We expect to see cases drop quite rapidly in February if we follow the same trends we have seen in other parts of the world,” she added.

“What happened in this wave was basically so many people got infected that a lot of people either have immunity from being boosted or immunity from recent infection and that will likely drop our case rates even more in the coming weeks,” Berry said.

She also cautioned that the region is not out of the woods yet as hospital systems tend to lag a few weeks behind.

Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles currently has 11 people hospitalized with COVID-19. Two are in the intensive care unit (ICU) with two more in an ICU out of the county.

Two people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in Jefferson Healthcare hospital in Port Townsend.

Berry told the Jefferson County Board of Health on Thursday that the biggest challenge facing the region right now is health care capacity.

“The state is getting hit hard by COVID-19 all at the same time, so the places we would normally send our very sick patients are unable to accept them, so we are taking care of much sicker people locally than we normally would at our small hospitals where we don’t have the resources for them, she said.

“The other critical shortage we are running into a shortage of EMS transport. A series of EMS departments across the region have had a number of positive cases. That’s taken them out of service or when they go to transport a patient to another hospital the waits are so long to get an ER bed that the patient needs to remain in the EMS rig which takes it out of commission and unable to return to serve our community,” Berry said.

Despite the ongoing pressure on hospitals, the peaking of this surge shows a light at the end of the long pandemic tunnel.

“This virus has shown its ability to adapt so there is no guarantee’s when it comes to COVID, but I am hopeful that things are going to get better in the coming months,” Berry said.

A state portal for residents to order free at-home COVID-tests ran out of stock shortly after it was launched Friday, according to The Seattle Times.

But health officials are urging patience since the state has only been able to acquire a portion of the 3.5 million tests that will be ultimately be made available.

At a news conference Friday, Secretary of Health Dr. Umair A. Shah said the state had about 650,000 tests on hand of the 3.5 million it will have eventually.

The website is www.sayyescovidhometest.org. The phone number is 1-800-525-0127.

The state portal is separate from the site that was launched by the federal government earlier this week, which allows four at-home tests per residential address, to be delivered by the Postal Service.

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

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