Jefferson County man dies of COVID-19

Peninsula counties both add weekend cases

A Jefferson County man has died from COVID-19, increasing the county’s death total from the virus to 23.

The man was in his 70s, vaccinated and boosted, but he was also battling cancer and other chronic conditions that contributed to his death, said Dr. Allison Berry, the health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties.

“It really fits with the pattern that we are seeing with the omicron variant, that if you are unvaccinated, we are still seeing deaths in young and healthy people, but if you are fully vaccinated we, unfortunately, can still see deaths in people who are very ill,” Berry said. “I think that highlights the critical nature of all of us doing everything we can to protect our neighbors by getting vaccinated and masking because there are people who cannot be properly protected even by a booster.”

Jefferson County added 102 new cases over the weekend, and two people were hospitalized at Jefferson Healthcare — one in the intensive care unit (ICU).

The county’s total case count increased to 2,616 since the beginning of the pandemic. It reported a case rate of 1,236 per 100,000 population for the past two weeks as of last Friday and updates its case rate weekly.

Clallam County reported 355 new cases over the weekend, bringing its total to 9,573 since the beginning of the pandemic. It had a case rate Monday of 1,736 per 100,000 for the past two weeks, up 108 cases per 100,000 from last week.

There were 14 Clallam County residents hospitalized Monday, 10 at Olympic Medical Center. Of those, two were in the ICU. Four others were in ICUs at other area hospitals, Berry said.

“We will see variability [in case rates] day over day, but we do anticipate that we will be in an overall downward trajectory,” she said. “But what we are starting to see is a split along the county, so we have reached our peak in the Sequim and Port Angeles area, but the west end has not reached its peak yet, so we are seeing an increase in cases in that area, which is consistent in what we have seen in other parts of the country in areas that had a significant late delta surge; their omicron peak is later.”

Berry noted that people ending up in the ICU are in their 20s, 30s and 40s and are unvaccinated.

“I think it’s really critical for the community to know that,” she said. “There’s this common misconception that getting COVID now is like getting a cold, and if you’re unvaccinated, that’s untrue.”

Berry encouraged vaccinations and early testing for those who feel sick.

“Get tested right away,” she said. “We do still have PCRT testing available in the community because there are some treatments we can get to you if you are at high risk of severe disease.”

Clallam and Jefferson health departments are continuing to monitor the BA.2 variant of omicron, nicknamed “stealth omicron,” which was found in Europe, with recent diagnoses in Washington.

The new variant is 1 1/2 times more transmissible than the original omicron variant, but it is not proving to be more severe, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It’s something we are monitoring,” Berry said. “In other parts of the world, we are seeing it may have a transmission advantage over even regular omicron, which would be concerning. But we have seen similar vaccine efficacy and similar severity so far, so likely we are not seeing evidence that it would cause a new peak on top of omicron, but it may displace it.”

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

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