COVID cases rise but most mild

Numbers are soaring without hospitalization

Transmission of COVID-19 is rampant across the North Olympic Peninsula, but the cases are not as severe as they were in previous surges of the virus, according to the region’s public health officer.

“We are not seeing the kind of surge we used to see,” said Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties.

“Given that we are at 800 or more cases per 100,000, normally by now we would have seen significant increases in hospitalization and death, and we’re just not seeing that here, not right now,” Berry said Friday.

“This is hopeful because it suggests that the amount of our community that is vaccinated and the amount that has had a recent infection is going a long way to prevent that severe disease,” she concluded.

Two people were hospitalized Friday with the virus in Clallam County. Both are unvaccinated and in intensive care at Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles.

No Jefferson County residents were hospitalized Friday with COVID-19.

Clallam’s total deaths from COVID-19 stood at 112 since the pandemic began, while Jefferson’s remained at 29 deaths since the pandemic began.

Despite the low hospitalization and death rates, Berry and other health officials across the state are strongly recommending people wear masks when indoors due to the significant levels of transmission.

“We certainly strongly recommend it in indoor settings, but as of right now, at the state and local level, there is no plan to move toward a mandatory masking mandate unless we see a significant rise in severe disease, hospitalization and death,” Berry said.

Clallam County added 279 new cases since last Monday, bringing its total from 12,332 to 12,611 cases since the pandemic began, with a case rate of 868 per 100,000 population.

Jefferson County added 117 new cases since last Monday, bringing its total from 3,912 to 4,029 cases since the pandemic began, with a case rate of 923 per 100,000.

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.

Berry expects the first round of approved COVID-19 vaccines for children 6 months to 4 years old to be available to the public on the Peninsula by the end of June.

“We are putting in place plans for how to make sure that those get delivered quickly to families once they are available,” Berry said.

“I expect, unfortunately, that there will be some hesitancy,” she continued. “There is just so much misinformation out there.

“I think the good news about this vaccine is that the early data that we have is that this vaccine is safe and highly effective, particularly for this age group,” which is the age range of children for whom “we are seeing the highest amount of hospitalization,” she said.

Monkeypox

Monkeypox has reportedly been spreading recently in the U.S.

As of Friday, one case had been reported in Washington state. That was in a King County man who had traveled recently to a country where other monkeypox cases had been identified.

If it spreads to the Peninsula, “I think we are in a good position to handle Monkeypox, largely because of the experiences we have with COVID-19,” Berry said.

“The good news is with Monkeypox is most people don’t get severely ill, so it’s primarily a public health response, a contact-tracing response, and goodness knows we know how to do that.”

The first human case of Monkeypox was reported in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The disease can spread by close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets or handling contaminated materials.

The World Health Organization reported that, “based on currently available information, cases have mainly but not exclusively been identified amongst men who have sex with men, seeking care in primary care and sexual health clinics.”

Gun violence

Following the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, the subject of gun violence as a public health issue is again rising in conversations among health officials and the public.

“When it comes to gun violence, I think it would behoove us to look at this issue as we look at the causes of death,” Berry said.

Berry said gun violence is now the No. 1 cause of death in children.

Before that, the top cause of child deaths in the U.S. had been motor vehicle wrecks.

“When looking at those causes of death, one of the things we see is a rapid rise in deaths due to gun violence and at the same time a rapid drop in deaths due to motor vehicles,” Berry said.

“That’s not an accident. That’s because of public health intervention and reasonable safety measures. I think we could apply those same public health interventions when it comes to things like gun violence,” Berry said.

________

Reporter Ken Park can be reached at [email protected].

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