COVID cases still rising

Three hospitalized on Peninsula

Jefferson County residents getting treated for COVID-19 may need to travel to Sequim to receive their treatment as the county awaits more medication.

That’s because the drug Paxlovid is hard to come by in Jefferson County, said Dr. Allison Berry, the health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties.

“Treatment is available in both counties for those who are 65 and older or have underlying conditions that get COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status,” she said. “We have had a lot of demand in Jefferson County so we have intermittently run out at some of the pharmacies, but we should be able to correct that shortly.”

In the meantime, Jefferson County residents have traveled to Clallam County to pick up their treatments.

“Sequim has more pharmacies, like Walgreens and Rite Aid and all these other national chains that get the direct distribution from the fed, whereas Jefferson still relies heavily on small and local pharmacies, and it has a smaller population so receives less supply,” Berry said.

COVID-19 cases have been rising across the country and the Peninsula.

Clallam County reported 82 new cases since April 26, bringing its total since the pandemic began to 11,406 with a case rate of 203 per 100,000 population as of Monday.

Jefferson County added 91 new cases since April 26, bringing its total since the pandemic began to 3,489 with a case rate of 419 per 100,000 as of Friday.

Case rates are a reflection of cases reported during a two-week period. They are computed using a formula based on a 100,000 population even for counties that do not have 100,000 people living in them.

Berry believes both counties’ numbers are undercounted despite new reporting systems that make it easier for folks to do so.

“Our numbers will likely always be an undercount of what they really are, either because folks are not testing or not reporting,” she said.

“It’s called ascertainment, or our ability to detect cases in the community. In the state as a whole, we estimate we’re only catching 16 percent of the cases out there. For Jefferson County, that’s about 50 percent, and for Clallam, that’s about 40 percent.”

Both counties are in the state’s high-risk category for COVID-19. Berry along with health officials in King and Snohomish counties are encouraging folks to wear masks while indoors, and they are beginning to weigh the return of mandatory masking.

One of the key factors that could trigger the return of masking mandates is hospitalizations, which are on the rise on the east coast and in other parts of the state. However, hospitalization is not at the same rate as it was when COVID-19 first arrived in the U.S., Berry said.

“One of the key things we are looking at is hospitalizations and really who is getting hospitalized,” she said.

“If it’s still primarily people that haven’t got vaccinated or older people who have not got a booster shot, then our focus will remain on getting those folks fully vaccinated and encouraging masking in indoor spaces. If we start seeing people that have been boosted end up hospitalized, then we would strongly recommend the second booster and look again at masking mandates,” Berry said.

Berry said that while mandatory masking is a possibility, she is hoping the Peninsula will be able to avoid it by encouraging people to wear masks indoors and with vaccination for those who have yet to receive it.

In Clallam County, there was one person hospitalized with COVID-19 on Monday at Olympic Medical Center, and in Jefferson County, there were two people who were hospitalized outside the county.

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

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