Officials: COVID-19 strains more concerning

U.K., California and India variants reported in Clallam County

PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County entered its second week with no new COVID-19 cases Sunday.

Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke did not expect the lull to last.

Jefferson County, which had 412 confirmed cases since March 2020, had no coronavirus transmission reported from May 15 to Sunday afternoon.

“We are very likely to get some more cases before things really drop off,” Locke said in a Sunday interview.

“There’s still too much COVID around the state.”

Case rates remained “quite high” in Kitsap, King and Pierce counties, where many Jefferson County residents commute or travel, Locke said.

“It’s kind of impossible that we will stay disease-free, I think, for the next month,” Locke said.

He added that case rates were expected to fall “very low” by the end of June.

Clallam County had 1,315 confirmed cases during its 14-month COVID-19 response as of Saturday.

Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry said in a Sunday text message that she did not have new information to report because she did not have internet access.

In her second-to-last scheduled weekly COVID-19 briefing Friday, Berry said Clallam County had a moderate transmission rate of 71 cases per 100,000 population for the two weeks prior.

“We are certainly seeing an increase in middle-aged people being hospitalized, and the primary driver of that is the variant activity that we are seeing locally,” Berry said.

“Primarily, we’re seeing the UK variant, the California variant, and we did have one case of a variant that is circulating in India, but that was really well quarantined and not transmitting in the rest of the town.”

Clallam County had four people hospitalized with COVID-19 infections Friday and 55 hospitalizations since March of last year.

Clallam County had 10 COVID-19 deaths and Jefferson County had three deaths attributed to the virus since it emerged, Berry and Locke said.

Berry said the variants make young people sicker, but the Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are “still incredibly effective against them.”

“We’re seeing primarily transmission among unvaccinated people, and certainly hospitalization among unvaccinated people,” Berry said in her briefing.

“It is an important reminder that the variants are incredibly serious, and they can make you quite ill. So if you are not vaccinated, now is a really good time to go ahead and get vaccinated.”

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.

Locke said he planned to focus on variants and masking in his weekly presentation to Jefferson County commissioners today.

King County recently joined Jefferson and San Juan counties in having its own masking directives, Locke said.

“The big perspective now is that we’re really trying to get vaccinations more widespread before we get the emergence of more serious variants,” Locke said.

“Variant strains are really the concern.”

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

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