Health officers: Most COVID-19 cases seen in unvaccinated people

Clinics set on Peninsula

The biggest element in new COVID-19 cases is lack of vaccination, public health officers say.

“The most consistent thing (about new cases) is they are in the unvaccinated,” said Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County public health officer.

“We do see breakthrough cases,” in which vaccinated people contract the virus, he said. “But they are rare.”

Contact tracing shows the level of vaccination across Clallam County, according to Dr. Allison Berry, county health officer.

In the Sequim area, contract tracing of cases contracted while traveling generally resulted in finding vaccinated people, she said. Farther west, in Port Angeles, results have been more mixed, with more contacts found to be unvaccinated. The West End has had the highest level of unvaccinated people, she has found.

“Half or more of the contacts are unvaccinated,” on the West End, Berry said.

Willingness to be vaccinated “unfortunately has been politicized,” nationwide, she said.

At the same time, she emphasized that community leaders of all political persuasions on the North Olympic Peninsula have wholeheartedly supported vaccination efforts, something for which public health officials are very grateful.

Locke said that willingness to be vaccinated tends to “correlate with a political divide.”

“Not only are people who are unvaccinated more likely to get infected, but also they are less likely to cooperate in testing and isolation” if they do get sick, according to Locke, who said that some people won’t talk with public health investigators when they call.

He wants people who don’t trust public health staffers to know that “there’s a lot we can offer people by way of services — access to health care, food deliveries, shelter,” he said.

The aim of public health offices is “to limit transmission, and we want everybody who gets it to survive,” Locke said.

Two more COVID-19 cases were confirmed among the congregation of a Clallam County church on Wednesday, bringing that outbreak up to 16 positives.

One person has been hospitalized from the outbreak at the church. That person is among three people currently hospitalized with the unique virus on Clallam County, the youngest being in her 30s, the age group in the county with the most cases recorded between May 25 and June 7.

Dr. Allison Berry, county health officer, has not identified the church. It is a moderately large church, she has said, and has canceled its services for the next two weeks. All but one of the people who contracted the virus were unvaccinated; the one breakthrough case was in an elderly woman with a compromised immune system. Church leaders also are working with the health department to address vaccine hesitancy, she added.

An outbreak at an unidentified long-term care facility remains at 17 confirmed cases, Berry said. State officials are at the facility all week, working with them — along with county officials — in upgrading infection control, she said.

Neither Berry nor Locke will identify the name of a place where an outbreak occurs unless they are unable to trace exposures, they have said.

Clallam County cases overall increased by six confirmed on Wednesday. Two were in the church congregation while the other four were from smaller outbreaks on the West End, Berry said.

That brings Clallam County cases up to 1,415 since the pandemic began.

Jefferson County added one case on Wednesday, bringing its total to 440. One person is hospitalized in the county while an adolescent resident has been transferred to a hospital out of the county, Locke said.

Vaccination clinics

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.

Residents can walk into the Jefferson Healthcare Express Clinic every day from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. to receive a Johnson & Johnson vaccine shot, or they can schedule with a primary care provider to receive Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson.

Vaccinations at local pharmacies in Jefferson County can be found at https://co.jefferson.wa.us/1429/COVID-19.

Clallam County is offering today already-scheduled second doses of Pfizer vaccine at Port Angeles High School, 304 E. Park Ave., from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Also today, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will be offered at the Forks public health office, 140 C St., from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

On Friday, the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine and the two-shot Moderna will be offered at the Sequim Food Bank, 144 W. Alder St., from 9 a.m. to noon.

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

Some of the larger grocery stores such as Walmart, Safeway and QFC receive regular shipments of COVID-19 vaccines.

Appointments can be made on their websites when available: Walmart, Walmart.com/covidvaccine; Safeway, https://www.safeway.com/vaccinations/home; QFC, https://www.qfc.com/rx/covid-eligibility.

Forty-four COVID-19 cases were active in Clallam County on Wednesday, while Jefferson County had 11 active cases.

Both counties are in the state’s moderate-risk category, with cases rates of 72 per 100,000 population for the two weeks prior as of Wednesday in Clallam County and 56.4 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Saturday in Jefferson County.

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Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected].

Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski contributed to this story.

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