Mask mandates may be lifted at state level as early as April

Governor’s office could announce changes this week

Current metrics regarding COVID-19 cases could see masking mandates lifted by early April, according to the North Olympic health officer.

“The governor has not announced the date for lifting the mask order, but we (state health officers) talked a little bit about that and we expect it to be, at this point, sometime towards the end of March or early April,” said Dr. Allison Berry, the health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties.

An official announcement may come from Gov. Jay Inslee’s office later this week, but Berry said she’s cautiously optimistic.

“We are seeing cases come down in our region,” she said. “As of Friday, we were down to 1,200 per 100,000 in Clallam and 743 per 100,000 in Jefferson, so the beginning of that downward trajectory.

“The challenge will be maintaining that trajectory.”

Berry said there has been a significant push to lift all the mitigations that were put in place to protect against and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“My concern is, if we do it too soon, we will see a prolonging of this (omicron) surge and an additional surge on top of it,” she said.

Both counties recorded a new death from COVID-19 over the weekend.

Over the weekend, a Clallam County man in his 50s who was vaccinated but not boosted died from the virus, Berry said, adding he also had several underlying health conditions.

Meanwhile, a Jefferson County woman in her 90s who was unvaccinated died, Berry said. The woman also had underlying conditions.

Clallam County’s total deaths due to the virus increased to 98 since the pandemic began and Jefferson increased to 26.

Due to a delay in the state reporting mechanism, no new case numbers were available for Clallam County on Monday, Berry said.

Jefferson County gained 46 cases, bringing its total to 2,874 since the pandemic began. The county will update its case rate on Friday.

“Pretty much all of Jefferson’s testing happens at Jefferson Healthcare or through antigen tests provided by the health department, so that’s how we get our numbers for Jefferson,” Berry said. “Clallam County is a much bigger system, so they go to OMC, Forks and all the pharmacies and do PCR testing, and that data goes to the state, where it gets tabulated and then sent back to us.

“That state step is falling through at the moment, unfortunately.”

Hospitalizations from the virus are also beginning to trickle downward, Berry said.

Sixteen Clallam County residents were hospitalized Monday with the virus. Four were in intensive care at Olympic Medical Center and 10 were at ICUs around the region, including one at Jefferson Healthcare.

Four Jefferson County residents were hospitalized Monday with COVID-19, including one in the ICU at Jefferson Healthcare.

Clallam Bay

A medication error was reported Thursday at Clallam Bay Corrections Center.

According to a press release, at least 23 inmates and one staff member were treated with a medication called Regen Cov, a treatment for COVID-19 patients, during an onsite vaccine clinic on Feb. 10.

The treatment was reportedly administered by mistake, instead of one of the COVID-19 vaccines.

All those who received the treatment were notified and none had experienced any serious side effects from the treatment, according to the press release.

The corrections department said it will continue to monitor those individuals.

Berry said the Regen Cov treatment was used to treat COVID-19 patients early on, but it has proven not to be effective against the omicron variant and is no longer in use.

“It is a very safe medication, unlikely to cause problems, could cause a fever though,” Berry said.

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

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