Long-term care facility outbreak up to 15 cases

The long-term care facility outbreak in Clallam County has risen to 15 cases, with 11 residents and four staff testing positive for COVID-19 as of Wednesday.

The county health officer does not identify facilities that have outbreaks.

Clallam County confirmed eight new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, while Jefferson County added two new cases, according to county public health data.

Clallam Count Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry is concerned about the rising cases at the unidentified care facility, she said. A team from Clallam County Public Health were there Wednesday to make sure that all COVID-19 prevention guidelines were being followed, she said.

The two residents who once were in the Intensive Care Unit are still hospitalized but have been improving and continue to remain out of the ICU, she said.

In addition to the care facility outbreak, Berry has been tracking a rising tend of new cases in the West End, driven by family and small group gatherings of unvaccinated residents, she said.

The increase in the U.K. variant on the North Olympic Peninsula— which is now referred to as the Alpha variant — poses a risk for more hospitalizations and virus transmission among unvaccinated residents, Berry said.

“An important thing to know when you look at our cases, while we have done well comparatively than other areas in terms of vaccination, there are still 36,000 people in our community who are entirely unvaccinated,” she said.

“Those folks are at significant risk from the virus, and we’re seeing the virus spread among that population.

“If you get COVID now, your risk of getting hospitalized and dying is much higher than it was before. COVID has always been dangerous, but it’s very dangerous now. If you’re unvaccinated, it’s critically important if you’re eligible to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke agreed with Berry about the danger that the Alpha variant poses to those who are unvaccinated, saying most new cases now are among unvaccinated residents.

“It’s more infectious; it can cause more severe disease; it’s more likely to cause symptomatic illness in children,” said Locke. “We’re in the phase of the pandemic where vaccination is our only good strategy.

“We’re putting everything we’ve got into making vaccines as easy to get, as accessible and really provide as many incentives as we can. I’m especially concerned when all the restrictions come off at the end of this month.”

The risks of contracting COVID-19 is only going get worse for unvaccinated residents, as more people travel and mask-wearing ends, Locke said.

Vaccination clinics on the North Olympic Peninsula can be found at https://www.peninsuladailynews.com/news/vaccination- clinics-set-this-week-as- lottery-begins.

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.

While all state residents 12 and older are eligible to be vaccinated, anyone younger than 18 can receive only Pfizer’s vaccine.

Thirty-four cases have been confirmed in June so far in Clallam County, about 2.45 percent of 1,385 cases reported since the pandemic began, according to county data.

Jefferson County has confirmed seven cases this month so far, about 1.65 percent of the 424 total cases since the pandemic began, according to county data.

Clallam County had three patients hospitalized for COVID-19 on Wednesday, with one in the ICU. Jefferson County had one resident hospitalized.

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

Clallam County is in the state’s moderate-risk category with a case rate of 46 per 100,000 population for the past two weeks as of Wednesday, while Jefferson County is in the state’s low-risk category with a case rate of 15.67 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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