A Clallam County man in his 80s died Sunday from COVID-19, raising the total number of deaths caused by the virus to 23 on the North Olympic Peninsula.
The man, who was unvaccinated, was the 19th COVID-19 fatality in Clallam County, while Jefferson County has had four residents die from the disease, according to public health data.
Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties, expressed her condolences to the man’s family and friends.
“This is a small community. I expect there are people reading this newspaper that already know who died,” she said. “I just want to extend our condolences to this gentleman’s family and his friends and really encourage all of us to do our part to protect our elders by getting vaccinated.”
Over the weekend, Clallam County confirmed 80 new COVID-19 cases, while Jefferson County confirmed 16 new cases, Berry said.
Berry confirmed the delta variant is the dominant strain among new cases on the North Olympic Peninsula, as genetic sequencing has showed about 80 percent of new cases being delta, she said Monday in her briefing with the Board of Jefferson County Commissioners.
Both counties continue to see significant increases in COVID-19 cases as the highly contagious delta variant circulates in both communities, Berry said.
“We’ve never seen anything like this,” she told the commissioners. “It’s a really critical time to get the virus under control to keep society functioning.”
Both counties continue to set record-high case rates, recording the highest either county has seen during the pandemic.
Clallam County recorded a case rate of 392 per 100,000 population for the two weeks prior as of Monday, Berry said. Jefferson County’s case rate is 235.11 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Saturday, she added.
The health care system on the Peninsula seeing “significant strains,” caused by staffing shortages and Intensive Care Units being full in other parts of the state, Berry said. She recommended the three area hospitals to start preparing to stop elective procedures for the time being.
“Unfortunately, we expect this to get worse before it gets better,” Berry said, highlighting hospitalization and death increases are lagging indicators that trail a few weeks behind large increases in case numbers.
Nine people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Clallam County and two were hospitalized in Jefferson County as of Monday, Berry said.
Monday marked the start of the Berry’s latest masking order, which requires anyone 5 and older to wear a face mask indoors in public spaces, including businesses, restaurants and government buildings.
The rising case numbers are “deeply concerning,” Berry said, adding we won’t see the benefit of things like the masking order for two weeks after it is put in.
“We do expect these numbers to get worse,” she said. “Many parts of the state and the country don’t have masking orders, have less people vaccinated than we do and so that will continue to stress the hospital system even after things get better out here.”
“I do believe that things can and will get better out here, but we have to make serious changes and, unfortunately, the benefit of our changes, it always takes at least two weeks. We have to prepare for how we’re going to get through the next two weeks.”
Jefferson County has confirmed a total of 597 cases since the pandemic began, while Clallam County confirmed 2,018 cases since the pandemic began, according to county public health data.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]