Health officers: Unvaccinated should keep wearing masks

Although most COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, unvaccinated and high-risk residents still are urged to continue to wear face masks in indoor spaces with other people.

While Jefferson County’s masking mandate has been rescinded, the state Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah’s order regarding unvaccinated residents to wear masks in indoor spaces, businesses and workplaces remains in effect across the state.

Both Jefferson and Clallam counties have seen a rise in COVID-19 cases over the last few weeks, and Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke associated that with people embracing the removal of restrictions before they were officially ended Wednesday.

“We’re anticipating that more unvaccinated people will be getting together with other unvaccinated people in indoor settings,” he said. “I support the changes, I think they’re the right way to go. However, people should not interpret it as the pandemic is over or the threat has passed.

“The truth is, the threat has only passed for those who are vaccinated.

“The threat for those who are unvaccinated is only increasing because the opportunities to be exposed are increasing and how infectious the virus you may be exposed to is also increasing,” he continued.

“People who are susceptible to infection should still protect themselves from being exposed to it.”

Two new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Clallam County on Wednesday, raising the new church outbreak to five total cases, and 114 have been confirmed countywide in June, about 7.78 percent of 1,465 cases reported since the pandemic began, according to county data.

Jefferson County confirmed one new case Wednesday that was under investigation and has confirmed 33 cases this month, about 7.33 percent of the 450 total cases since the pandemic began, according to county data.

All exposures involved with the newest church outbreak have been contacted, said Clallam County Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry.

A larger church had an outbreak of 24 infections and had been tracked by the county.

It appeared to be tapering off, Berry said Tuesday.

Berry and Locke do not identify the location of an outbreak if they’re able to trace contacts of all possible exposures, they have said.

Berry agreed with Locke and urged unvaccinated residents, as well as those who are vaccinated but who are also elderly, immunosuppressed or taking chemotherapy to continue to wear masks indoors with other people, especially since more infectious variants are spreading throughout the state.

“With case numbers the way they are right now, and the variant circulating, now is a really risky time,” she said.

“I would really encourage businesses to consider how to reopen safely; consider where you can create space in your venues; consider requiring masks if you’re in a space that will have people spending a prolonged period of time indoors. We would encourage wearing masks if you don’t know the vaccination status of everyone,” she continued.

“If you are fully vaccinated and you don’t have any other high-risk factors — your immune system works well — you should really be able to operate safely and live a largely normal life without any restrictions.”

Both health officers continue to urge residents to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Anyone 12 and older is eligible to be vaccinated, but those younger than 18 can only receive Pfizer’s vaccine.

Vaccination clinics on the North Olympic Peninsula this week can be found at www.peninsuladailynews.com/news/official- covid-19-droplets-evaporate- in-high-temperatures.

Forty-one cases were active in Clallam County on Wednesday and eight were hospitalized, with two patients in the Intensive Care Unit at Olympic Medical Center and three in ICUs outside the county. Jefferson County had four active cases.

Clallam County has recorded 12 deaths due to COVID-19 while Jefferson County has recorded four.

Both counties are in the state’s moderate-risk category with case rates of 68 per 100,000 population for the past two weeks as of Wednesday in Clallam County, and Jefferson County at about 43.89 cases 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 [email protected]

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