North Olympic Peninsula health officials are urging residents to wear masks while indoors this holiday weekend as COVID-19 is still ever present.
“We are still seeing a ton of transmission in our community and we really haven’t seen our numbers tip down in any significant way,” said Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties, on Friday.
While most Fourth of July weekend festivities will be taking place outside, it is the indoor areas or areas where there are a lot of people close together where people should consider wearing masks, Berry said.
“In the vast majority of outdoor spaces, you are still really unlikely to contract COVID-19,” she said.
”I would say if you are going to be really packed into some place, like watching a parade and standing in one place for a long period of time, shoulder-to-shoulder with other people, that is a time where you might consider wearing a mask,” Berry added.
Berry and other health officials have continuously recommended that people purchase and wear high-quality masks throughout the pandemic, but have more recently noted that the current variants of COVID-19 circulating right now, BA. 4 and BA.5 are particularly contagious and can get around even surgical masks.
“While a surgical mask is better than nothing in those spaces, it’s really important to wear a good quality mask when you are indoors with a lot of people,” Berry said.
Infections with the newer variants have been seen even in those who are vaccinated against Covid.
“We have seen a lot of breakthrough infection for people that are fully vaccinated, even in folks that are boosted can still get COVID-19, especially if they are in close indoor proximity with other people,” Berry said.
“But we are still seeing the vaccines doing a great job at preventing severe disease.”
Those not getting COVID-19 right now mostly are those who continue to mask in indoor spaces and those who have had a prior infection but have also been vaccinated and boosted.
“That’s the crew that not getting infected. It’s the people that got all three doses of the vaccine and then, unfortunately, had a breakthrough infection, and we are not seeing reinfection of that group,” Berry said.
There has been some question about whether another round of vaccines/ boosters will be needed for adults and children who have already been vaccinated and boosted.
Berry said that there is some work being done to explore a potential vaccine for the fall that would also cover the annual flu shots, but it is not a sure thing at this point.
“There is definitely consideration of a fall vaccine that would cover a broad spectrum of viruses including COVID-19, but it all kind of still in very early stages,” Berry said.
Clallam and Jefferson County recently transitioned to a weekly COVID-19 reporting system, which updates every Monday at noon.
Clallam County reported on Monday a total of 13,764 cases since the pandemic began, with a case rate of 707 per 100,000.
Jefferson County reported a total of 4,657 cases since the pandemic began, with a case rate of 979 per 100,000.
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.
Since the Fourth of July occurs on a Monday this year, next week’s COVID-19 numbers will be updated on Tuesday.
Reporter Ken Park can be reached at [email protected].