Four flu deaths on Peninsula

COVID-19 cases flat despite records spike

PORT ANGLES — Influenza has claimed the lives of four more North Olympic Peninsula residents, one in Jefferson County and three in Clallam County.

Deaths were reported during a monthly update.

The Jefferson County resident was a man in his 70s who was unvaccinated against the flu and had underlying health issues.

The three Clallam county residents were a man and a woman in their 90s and one woman in her 30s. All but the woman in her 90s were unvaccinated, according to Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties.

Washington state has reported a total of 147 flu deaths since Jan. 7 with 10 of those reported in Clallam County and one in Jefferson County.

Despite these recent deaths, Berry said cases of influenza are decreasing, but with winter still upon us, she still recommends masking when in crowded indoor places, as well getting vaccinated and staying home when sick.

On the COVID-19 front, Clallam County has had a big increase in the number of deaths attributed to the virus. The number jumped from 131 on Jan. 4 to 157 on Jan. 16. The rise is primarily due to delayed toxicology reports confirming that the cause of death was indeed COVID-19, Berry said.

“There is a note on the website that explains the jump, but the primary cause was due to several deaths that were outstanding at the end of 2022,” she said. “We don’t count them until we are sure they are COVID-19 deaths, and we had a lot of toxicology and autopsy reports pending.”

“A whole bunch of those came through all at the same time, so it looks like a spike, but it’s actually not,” she said.

The explanation can be found on the Clallam County COVID-19 website by clicking on the Dashboard link at https://www.clallamcountywa.gov/254/Coronavirus-Information.

Jefferson County has not reported any new deaths from COVID-19.

Berry told KPTZ listeners and the Jefferson County commissioners that the numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations on the Peninsula are flattening as well as the rest of the West Coast, while the East Coast is currently seeing a rise in cases and hospitalizations from the virus.

“There is always the potential for a similar surge here, but the data isn’t supporting it right now, mainly because the West Coast is by and large more vaccinated against COVID-19 than the East Coast.”

Nearly 78 percent of Clallam County and more than 80 percent of Jefferson County is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

“I am hopeful that we are starting to see COVID-19 move into a more seasonal pattern,” Berry said.

As of Tuesday, 15,536 Clallam County residents had been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began, with a current case rate of 91 per 100,000 population and a 5 percent ascertainment rate.

In Jefferson County, 6,723 COVID-19 cases have been diagnosed since the pandemic began with a current case rate of 246 per 100,000 and a 10 percent ascertainment rate.

“Case ascertainment rate is the percentage of cases we’re actually counting right now,” Berry said.

“I usually do a ratio because it’s easier to understand, so the case ascertainment rate in Jefferson County is one in 10. In Clallam, it’s one in 20, which means we are catching and reporting about 1/10 or 1/20 of the cases that are actually out there.”

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.

With many people testing at home and not reporting to county health departments, case rate has become less reliable in measuring the effect of the virus on an area.

The way to calculate the number of COVID-19 cases circulating in a population is to multiply the case rate by the ascertainment rate, Berry said.

For Jefferson County, with a case rate of 246 per 100,000, that comes out to 2,460 positive COVID cases that have not been reported.

For Clallam County, with a case rate of 91 per 100,000, 455 cases have not been reported.

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

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