Enjoy holidays, with precautions, says health officer

Berry addresses more about myocarditis after vaccination

PORT TOWNSEND — Not only is it possible to travel well this season but “you can have Christmas dinner, in a way you couldn’t last year,” North Olympic Peninsula health officer Dr. Allison Berry said.

A layered approach is key, Berry said during the Jefferson County Board of Health meeting on Thursday.

“Make sure those gatherings are fully vaccinated and boosted,” she said, “and I do recommend adding a test [for COVID-19], especially if you have high-risk folks coming to that gathering.”

Antigen tests are “very effective in showing you are not contagious for the next 24 hours,” Berry said.

In this last county Board of Health meeting of 2021, the health officer also heard from two people who asked her about a local case of myocarditis that followed the patient’s vaccination against COVID-19.

Berry told the Jefferson County commissioners on Monday that it was a mild case. She said Thursday that they are usually mild after the vaccine.

“Yes, we have had one case of myocarditis,” Berry said Thursday.

It was “a truly terrifying experience” for the person who had been vaccinated, she said.

“It is a terrible thing to go through,” Berry said.

The major cause of myocarditis, which is inflammation of the heart muscle, right now is COVID-19, Berry has said.

“With this vaccine, we are preventing far more myocarditis than we are causing,” she said.

Vaccination also protects people from other COVID-borne illnesses: respiratory failure and multi-system inflammatory disease among them, she said.

The myocarditis caused by COVID-19 is generally much more severe than cases caused by the vaccine, Berry said.

“That doesn’t mean it’s not very scary to go through that,” she added of the local patient.

The bottom line, she said, is that the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risks.

To those who have been immunized, “make sure you are boosted,” she said, adding anyone 16 and older who has received their shots six months ago or more should get a booster.

Berry said it’s possible that COVID shots will become an annual routine for adults. It could also be added to the childhood vaccine series, with three doses giving youngsters immunity for life.

Time will tell, she said.

Now, as the Omicron variant makes it way around the state and nation, the layered approach is more important than ever, Berry emphasized.

Omicron is much more transmissible than the Delta variant, she said, adding public health workers expect it to overtake Delta in the new year.

“Viruses, as long as they circulate, will mutate” into new variants.

“We see the most mutations in any place that is undervaccinated … unfettered transmission creates a variant.”

With Omicron on the rise, people who have already had COVID are getting reinfected, Berry noted, so vaccination is strongly encouraged, regardless of whether you’ve gone through a bout with the disease.

Berry added that she expects to see Omicron arrive in full force on the North Olympic Peninsula before long. At the same time, none of our tools is 100 percent effective; especially with Omicron, we need all measures: testing, ventilation, distancing, vaccines and masks, she said.

“The vaccines are really good. Masks are really good,” yet alone, they’re not enough. With a combination of precautions, she said, “we can protect each other.”

On Friday, Clallam County reported 5,592 cases, an additional 38 cases to the 5,554 reported on Thursday, bringing the county’s COVID case rate per 100,000 to 308.

Jefferson County also saw five new cases bringing its total cases to 1,379 from 1,374 reported on Thursday and increasing its case rate to 180 per 100,000.

No new deaths or hospitalizations were reported in either county. In Clallam County, according to Berry, four of the eight people hospitalized have been discharged, including the young child who had been hospitalized earlier in the week.

________

Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]

Reporter Ken Park contributed to this story.

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