A Jefferson County resident has died from COVID-19, raising the total number of deaths in the county to 18 and increasing the total on the North Olympic Peninsula to 87 since the pandemic began.
The most recent death was reported Monday and was a man in his 70s who had underlying conditions, said Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Jefferson and Clallam counties.
And while he had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, he had yet to have a booster, Berry said.
Clallam County reported no new deaths on Monday. A total of 69 residents have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to public health data.
Studies have shown a drop in the efficacy in the protection that COVID-19 vaccines offer after six months, especially for those older than 70, Berry said.
“We are seeing waning immunity, especially in folks over 70 who were vaccinated early on,” Berry said. “If you’re over 70 and you got your vaccine more than six months ago, it’s important to get a booster.
“If you’re in that age group, you’re at a high risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19, and getting the first two doses decreases that risk, but it doesn’t decrease it to zero.”
Boosters “dramatically” increase immunity for that age group, Berry said.
Anyone 18 and older is now eligible for a booster with Pfizer and Moderna vaccines six months after their initial immunization.
“People younger than 65 who have a chronic condition is another group we recommend getting a booster in,” Berry said. “For other people who are young and healthy, you’re eligible for a booster, but it’s not as critical to get a booster if you’re not in a high-risk profession.
“But it does improve your immunity and does reduce your risk of transmitting the virus to other people. If there’s one available, it’s a good idea to get it. But it’s really important for our old population.”
Residents can find locations offering booster doses by using the state’s vaccination locator at https://vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov.
In addition to booster doses, health officials continue to work to vaccinate children 5 to 11 years old, Berry said.
Jefferson County Public Health and the Department of Emergency Management will host two Pfizer vaccination clinics December for first and second doses for children 5 to 11, officials said in a press release Monday.
The first clinic will be from 9 a.m. to noon Dec. 4 at Blue Heron Middle School, 3939 San Juan Ave. in Port Townsend. Appointments can be scheduled at https://prepmod.doh.wa.gov//appointment/en/reg/9124679067.
The second clinic will be from from 9 a.m. to noon Dec. 18 at Chimacum Junior/Senior High School’s multi-purpose room at 93 West Valley Road in Chimacum. Appointments can be made at https://prepmod.doh.wa.gov/appointment/en/reg/9069924918.
For those without internet access, appointments for the two clinics can made by calling the Department of Emergency Management at 360-344-9791.
During the first children’s vaccination clinic on Nov. 13, 192 children received the first dose of Pfizer’s vaccine. The second clinic on Saturday had 158 children get their first shots, said DEM Director Willie Bence.
Outbreaks, new cases
Berry was tracking two long-term care facility outbreaks on the Peninsula as of Monday, with one each in Jefferson and Clallam counties.
The Jefferson County outbreak has had a total of 13 cases so far, with one staff member infected and 12 residents, Berry said.
Clallam County’s outbreak has had a total of 42 cases so far, Berry said.
Both outbreaks are believed to have been started by unvaccinated staff members who were exempted for religious or medical reasons from the state’s vaccination mandate for long-term care workers, Berry said.
“There is an expectation that if you have a worker that got an exemption that you provide them a reasonable accommodation, which includes enhanced safety protocols,” Berry said. “Things like requiring a KN95 instead of a surgical mask, requiring frequent testing.
“But, unfortunately, that is not standardized across the state, and we’re seeing variability around how that is put in place, and that is putting high-risk residents at risk.
“We’re working with the state to try to formalize that and have a more strict protocol to reduce risk that unvaccinated workers would bring into these facilities.”
Clallam County added 37 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday from the weekend. The county has confirmed a total of 5,207 cases since the start of the pandemic, county health data said.
Jefferson County added 19 new cases Monday from the weekend. The county has confirmed a total of 1,273 cases since the pandemic began, according to county public health data.
Clallam County had a case rate of 232 per 100,000 population for the past two weeks as of Monday, according to county public health data.
In Jefferson County, health officials recorded a case rate of 192.61 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Nov. 17. Prior to that, the county had a case rate of 201.93 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Nov. 10.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]