In November, Peninsula COVD updates to be monthly

Disease now considered endemic

Starting in November, weekly COVID-19 updates from public health officials will become monthly updates as the pandemic moves into an endemic stage.

At the start of the pandemic, Jefferson County commissioners partnered with Port Townsend radio station KPTZ and regional health officials to provide updates and answer questions about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now as experts say that the pandemic is shifting to an endemic state, the now-weekly briefings will become monthly.

“We hope to continue to hold updates every third Monday of the month with our partners at KPTZ,” Jefferson County Commissioner Kate Dean said.

An endemic disease is one that is constant in a population — in this case, worldwide — but is fairly predictable as opposed to an epidemic in which a sudden spike is seen. Public health aims to change from attempting to prevent transmission to urging vaccination to prevent serious disease.

Dr. Tom Locke filled in for Clallam and Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry to close out the Jefferson County weekly briefings and talked about changes in how health officials are measuring COVID-19 data.

“We are actually starting to pay less attention to case rates than we used to because, at this point, they are not really reflective of what is happening on a broad scale,” Locke said.

“They reflect what’s going on in Clallam and Jefferson better than in many other areas of the state because people are good about reporting positive home tests around here.”

Locke said that among the metrics public health officers are looking at now are hospitalizations and death rates.

Locke confidently believes COVID-19 cases will increase this winter with more people gathering inside without masks and that it will be part of a trifecta of potential winter illnesses including influenza and RSV.

“The big wildcard and what we are hopeful for is that the impact will be much less,” he said. “So the changes in hospitalizations and changes in death rate will be much lower than it has been in the past because we have a population that is more resistant to the infection at this point.”

“The flu will be particularly worrisome this year because there has not been a predominant strain of flu activity for the last two years,” Locke said.

Locke encouraged folks to not only get their COVID-19 vaccines and boosters but their flu shots as well for extra protection this year.

As of Tuesday, Clallam County reported one person hospitalized for COVID-19 and no new deaths from the virus.

The case rate in the county went up slightly to 136 cases per 100,000 population. The county remains at moderate risk for COVID-19.

The county reported no new cases of COVID-19, keeping the total number since the pandemic began at 15,735.

Jefferson County reported no hospitalizations and no new deaths from the virus.

The case rate in the county dropped to 240 cases per 100,000, keeping the county in the high-risk category for COVID-19.

The county reported 36 new cases, bringing the total number since the pandemic began to 6,110.

“We are still really interested in case data, but most of that testing is now done at home, which is a good thing, but back in the early days of COVID-19, all of the testing was done in the labs, and we produced very accurate information from positive tests and that has clearly changed,” Locke said.

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

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