COVID-19 infection rates dipping on North Olympic Peninsula

Clallam reports five cases Sunday; Jefferson zero during weekend

After an eruption of new COVID-19 cases through much of the autumn, the North Olympic Peninsula had a quiet weekend with five new positives reported Sunday in Clallam County.

Jefferson County reported no positives either Saturday or Sunday.

Clallam County had six Saturday and added five more on Sunday.

During the autumn, the infection rate in Clallam County skyrocketed to more than 200 per 100,000 population in a two-week period, while in Jefferson County, the rate rose higher than 150 per 100,000.

Now, both counties have seen significant drops in their infection rates — Clallam is at 149 per 100,000 and Jefferson at 94 per 100,000 — even though they are both still in the state’s high-risk category.

“We’re certainly seeing a relatively low volume at this point,” said Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke. “The numbers are not going up.”

The infection rate is dropping just as the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are arriving on the Peninsula. The Pfizer vaccine arrived last week, and the first vaccinations were given to frontline health care workers Wednesday in Jefferson County and Friday in Clallam County.

The Moderna vaccine is expected to arrive sometime this week.

Locke said reports are that 128,000 Moderna vaccine doses will be coming to Washington this week.

The rate also is dropping heading into Christmas. Health officers in both counties are urging people to limit travel and limit their visitors during the holiday to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

They believe Peninsula residents largely did a good job during the Thanksgiving holiday, leading to a much smaller surge of new cases than was feared and much smaller than was experienced in the rest of the state and the country.

Locke said Christmas is a unique challenge for controlling the virus’ spread because the holiday is longer than Thanksgiving and college students tend to go home for a holiday break.

Locke will provide his weekly COVID-19 update to the Board of Jefferson County Commissioners at 9:45 a.m. today. It can be viewed at www.tinyurl.com/jeffcomeetings. He will take questions from listeners on KPTZ, Port Townsend’s community radio station.

Locke expects vaccines to be discussed and news that a new strain of COVID-19 has reportedly shown up in Great Britain.

“All viruses mutate. COVID-19 is no exception,” he said.

Locke pointed out that sometimes viruses mutate into less-dangerous viruses.

“It’s to the virus’ benefit not to kill people,” he said.

Clallam County has had 669 positives since the pandemic began in March, and it has 62 active cases, according to public health data.

Meanwhile, Jefferson County has had 202 positives since March, with 10 active cases in quarantine.

The infection rate for both counties will be recalculated today.

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