COVID, gun violence prevention before health board

Ten Public Health Heroes recognized

PORT ANGELES — The latest COVID-19 update, air quality, gun violence as a public health issue and recognizing individuals who have contributed to improving the health of the community dominated discussion at the Jefferson County Board of Health monthly meeting on Thursday.

Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties, reported that there were no new deaths due to COVID-19, although Jefferson County remains in the high-risk category.

As of Thursday, there were 251 active cases for a total of 4,509 cases since the pandemic began. There were no hospitalizations for COVID-19 to keep the total number of hospitalizations at 132.

“We are still seeing incredibly high rates of transmission in our community and statewide,” Berry said. “But, in spite of our high numbers, we have not seen the surge in hospitalizations and death that much of the country has seen with this most recent wave. The primary driver of that is our rate of vaccination.”

According to the Jefferson County COVID-19 dashboard, 78 percent of residents are fully vaccinated. It ranks fourth in Washington state in vaccination rates, after San Juan (92 percent), King (90 percent) and Island (87 percent) counties.

In light of recent mass shootings in the United States, Berry presented a public health approach to preventing gun violence that used evidence-based prevention strategies to support policy changes that had proven effective in reducing homicides and suicides, she said.

These included firearm purchaser licensing, bans on high-capacity magazines and extreme-risk protection orders (also known as “red flag laws”).

Safe-storage campaigns that promote handgun lock boxes and the use of trigger locks, Berry said, have been shown to reduce the risk of suicide and unintentional use by children.

Jeff Johnston, the new executive director of the Olympic Region Clean Air Agency, and his team presented an overview of its work monitoring air quality.

Jefferson is one of six counties under the jurisdiction of ORCAA (the others are Clallam, Grays Harbor, Mason, Pacific and Thurston), which is responsible for enforcing federal, state and local air pollution standards.

Jefferson County Public Health honored 10 individuals and organizations with Public Health Hero Awards, which recognize community members who make significant contributions to Jefferson County health.

The Board of Health sought nominations from the community for the annual award, which was not given out in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, and a subcommittee reviewed the applications.

Receiving certificates signed by Berry and public health director Apple Martine were: Christie Boyd, art teacher at Blue Heron Middle School, for using art to support student mental health and for leading equity training for school district staff;

David Codier, R.N., for facilitating clinics at Jefferson Healthcare and the Department of Public Health from winter 2021 to the present;

The paramedics and EMTs at East Jefferson Fire Rescue for providing residents with reliable and compassionate emergency services throughout the pandemic;

Food Bank Farm and Gardens (FoodBank Growers) for providing fresh organic produce to four local food banks;

Sarah Grossman, physical therapist with the Chimacum School District, for founding JUMP! (Jefferson Universal Movement Playground) for special needs children;

KPTZ 91.9 FM community radio station for its service throughout the pandemic by providing reliable information, interviewing public health experts and hosting public forums with Berry;

Grace Love, for founding the nonprofit Nadine’s House that provides artists with services, resources and support;

Lisa McKenzie, former public health nurse, for leading a communicable disease team during COVID-19 and training a new cohort of public health nurses;

Jim Moffitt, who formed a COVID-19 task force as part of the Port Ludlow Village Council’s health and wellness committee that created alliances with county agencies to raise pandemic awareness among residents;

Logan Stegner, physical education teacher and assistant coach at Port Townsend High School, who revised the physical education program to focus on students’ physical and mental health and expanded activities to attract a greater diversity of students.

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Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at [email protected]

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