New death reported from COVID-19

Berry disagrees with CDC reporting of risk

One new death in Clallam County over the holiday weekend brings its total deaths from COVID-19 since the pandemic began to 117.

Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties, said the deceased was a man in his 80s with underlying health conditions and who was vaccinated and had received one booster; he had not had the second booster.

“Unfortunately, I think this does highlight the critical nature of the second booster for those over 65,” Berry said.

“The most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of severe disease is to get vaccinated and boosted.”

Five people from Clallam County are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 at Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles.

No new deaths or hospitalizations have been reported in Jefferson County.

While the North Olympic Peninsula has some of the highest vaccination rates in the nation, it is still experiencing very high rates of transmission.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has listed Clallam as being among those counties in Washington state where residents are at high risk for contracting the disease.

Clallam County’s case rate increased slightly from last week, from 707 per 100,000 population to 737 per 100,000 with a total of 13,775 cases diagnosed since the pandemic began.

However, the CDC says that Jefferson County is at moderate risk only, something with which Berry disagrees.

Jefferson County has experienced a drop in its case rate, but it still remains well above the 200 cases per 100,000 that has been the threshold between moderate and high-risk.

Last week, Jefferson County had a case rate of over 900 per 100,000. On Tuesday, it was 715 per 100,000 with a total of 4,770 cases diagnosed since the pandemic began.

Berry said the CDC may have changed its metrics for determining risk, such as hospitalizations, of which Jefferson County had none on Tuesday.

“It’s just not a super helpful measure to wait to wear masks until your hospitals are overloaded, and it also seems like there are issues with data transfer, like intermittently I will get notified that Jefferson County is in high risk, but we don’t have anyone in the hospital for COVID-19, so that’s confusing,” Berry said.

She recommended the safest course to be to make decisions on behavior based on community transmission rates and added that, by and large, health officials are recommending wearing masks indoors.

“Both of our communities have high levels of transmission, so we recommend masking indoors,” she said.

“Your public health officials have continued to recommend wearing a mask indoors. It’s really only at the political level and, unfortunately, the CDC level that that recommendation has been a little bit more variable,” Berry said.

Berry said area health officials hope the dip in case rate in Jefferson County is the beginning of a downward trend.

“I think it’s a little too early to say for sure, based on one week’s data, but it is more consistent with what we are seeing in other parts of the state,” she said.

One variable that may be affecting the dip in the reported case rate is that school ended.

“School-related and graduation-related activities were, unfortunately, a driver of cases toward the end of the school year. But they (schools) are also major testing centers, so we might be seeing less transmission, but we might also be seeing less testing that’s driving that number,” Berry said.

Case rates are a reflection of cases reported during a two-week period. They are computed using a formula based on a 100,000 population even for counties that do not have 100,000 people living in them.

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Reporter Ken Park can be reached at [email protected].

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