Goal: 70 percent or better vaccination rate

Health officers aim to protect all with widespread innoculations against COVID-19

While more than 70 percent of residents 16 and older have initiated vaccination against COVID-19 in Jefferson County, reaching the 70 percent line in Clallam County by the end of June will be “a stretch,” said Dr. Allison Berry, Clallam County health officer.

As of Saturday, 59.11 percent of residents in Clallam County 16 and older had begun vaccinations, while 70.3 percent of the same demographic has begun vaccination in Jefferson County, according to state data.

On Tuesday, Clallam County confirmed two new COVID-19 cases, while Jefferson County held steady with no new cases.

The recent cases in Clallam County have been due to travel and small family gatherings, Berry said.

On Thursday, Gov. Jay Inslee announced it was likely that restrictions on businesses will be lifted — allowing 100 percent capacity — on June 30.

He added that it could happen earlier if the state reaches 70 percent of residents 16 and older having received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccination, or the date could be pushed back if the state’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU) capacity struggles to keep up with COVID-19 cases.

Inslee also adopted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidance on mask wearing, which allows vaccinated people to go maskless indoors unless on public transit such as a bus or plane, at a hospital or correctional facility, a homeless shelter or other crowded area, or if a business or local government agency requires them.

Both Berry and Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer, have continued to urge eligible residents to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Clallam County has seen a slowdown on people signing up for vaccinations over the past few weeks. That stems both from the large number of vaccinations the county was able to perform earlier and from the fact that most who wanted to be vaccinated have at this point.

Now the focus is on convincing those who are hesitant about the vaccine to get vaccinated, Berry said.

“Our biggest concern is whether or not the public will continue to take COVID seriously in spite of the changes in our governor’s message,” Berry said. “COVID is not gone, and if you’re unvaccinated, you’re very much at risk from this infection.

“There are some people for whom the vaccination is less effective. People who are on immunosuppressants, people who are undergoing chemotherapy — they aren’t protected enough by their vaccine alone.

“What protects them is our vaccine,” she said, referring to those who have been vaccinated. “It’s really important to think of the more vulnerable members of our community while we plan going forward.”

Berry also urges people to continue to wear masks while indoors around uunvaccinated people.

While Jefferson County has already reached the 70 percent threshold of people 16 and older beginning vaccinations, Locke hopes to see that climb to 70 percent and more of the entire population vaccinated. Currently, 62.53 percent of county residents have begun the process, he said.

Locke urges residents to continue to be cautious. State case rates are decreasing right now, but they are still high and pose a high risk of exposure and subsequent infections, he said.

“My greatest concern right now is there is a lot of COVID being transmitted in Washington state right now,” he said. “We just crested on the fourth wave, but we have a long way to go before we get things down to where they should be.

“There’s a danger right now if people misinterpret the CDC’s guidelines to say that it’s OK for unvaccinated people to move around indoors without a mask. If a significant number of people do that, we can see our rates shoot back up.”

Locke urges everyone to wear a mask indoors in public places where it’s impossible to determine if someone is vaccinated or not.

“I continue to a wear masks indoors, even though I’m fully vaccinated, and others should too until we can all end it, which is coming. Probably within the next month, we’ll all be able to stop masking.”

The state has a vaccination locator at https://vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov, which allows users to see where appointments are available and which vaccine will be used.

While all Washington residents 12 and older are eligible to be vaccinated, anyone younger than 18 can receive only Pfizer’s vaccine.

The full calendar for pop-up clinics in Clallam County can be viewed at https://tinyurl.com/PDN-ClallamPopUps.

Clallam County has confirmed 82 cases so far this month, about 6.23 percent of the 1,316 cases reported since the pandemic began, according to county data.

A total of 22 cases have been confirmed so far this month in Jefferson County, about 5.34 percent of the 412 total cases confirmed in the past year, according to county public health data.

Twenty-seven COVID-19 cases were active as of Tuesday in Clallam County, with two patients currently hospitalized in the Intensive Care Unit. Jefferson County had six active cases Tuesday.

The Peninsula has had 13 deaths related to COVID-19, with 10 in Clallam County and three in Jefferson County.

Clallam County is in the state’s high-risk category with a case rate of 80 per 100,000 population for the past two weeks as of Tuesday, while Jefferson County is in the moderate-risk category with a case rate of 50.16 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Saturday.

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at zjablonski@peninsuladailynews.com.

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