Seven new COVID-19 deaths of North Olympic Peninsula residents were confirmed on Wednesday, raising the total number of deaths from the novel coronavirus on the Peninsula to 42.
On Wednesday, Clallam County added 58 new COVID-19 cases, while Jefferson County added 18 new cases, for a total of 76 new cases in one day, according to county public health data.
Health officials also are tracking four long-term care facility outbreaks on the Peninsula. A Jefferson County long-term care facility has 15 COVID-19 cases. Three are in Clallam County. One has 45 cases and two have outbreaks of eight cases each, said Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Jefferson and Clallam counties.
“I think all of those highlight the challenge we have in protecting our most vulnerable when we have this much COVID-19 in the community,” Berry said.
“What happens is it’s a leaky sieve. Some COVID will get into these protected places, even if we’re doing everything we can, and that’s really what we’re seeing here.
“When there’s enough COVID in the community, it finds its way into these facilities, usually with a worker — that’s the most common way it gets in — sometimes with a visitor, but it finds its way in and then it can run rampant,” Berry continued, “even though in the facilities the vast majority, if not all, of the residents are vaccinated.
“That vaccine does very little to protect them because they are so elderly and so frail that they can’t mount a proper immune response,” Berry continued.
Berry has said she does not identify long-term care facilities that are under outbreak investigations because they are contained and pose little risk to the general public — and because facilities are required to inform family and emergency contacts of residents who’ve been exposed to COVID-19.
Clallam County recorded a case rate of 1,229 cases per 100,000 for the last two weeks as of Wednesday, meaning that more than 1 in 100 residents tested positive for COVID-19 in the county over the last two weeks, according to county public health data.
That statistic is even higher when paired with the record high 22.1 percent test positivity — the percentage of COVID-19 tests returned positive — which means that one in five people testing for COVID-19 are positive for it and that its estimated that the number of residents being infected with COVID-19 is closer to at least one in 10 residents rather than one in 100, Berry said.
Jefferson County calculates its case rate weekly and on Tuesday it reported a case rate of 485.89 cases per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Saturday, according to county public health data.
On Wednesday, public health officials confirmed that five Jefferson County residents and two Clallam County residents have died from COVID-19, raising the total number of deaths since the pandemic began to 11 in Jefferson County and 31 in Clallam County.
All five recent deaths in Jefferson County were among long-term care facility residents, four who were living at the Jefferson County facility facing an outbreak and one Jefferson resident who was in one of the Clallam County facilities experiencing an outbreak, Berry said.
All of those five were fully vaccinated. Two were in their 90s, two in their 80s and one was in their 70s, Berry said.
While the five were vaccinated, their age and frail conditions did not allow their bodies to fully respond to the vaccine, Berry said.
The two deaths in Clallam County were a man and woman in their 60s. Both were unvaccinated, Berry said.
The Jefferson County long-term care facility outbreak stems from a business outbreak of 15 cases, of which one of the staff members in the facility is a household contact of one of the business outbreak cases. That person was infected and passed on to the facility residents, Berry said.
“People often think that getting vaccinated is a personal choice, but it has extremely long-term implications far beyond that individual,” Berry said.
“I’m sure none of the folks who chose to not get vaccinated at that business would’ve ever intentionally infected a long-term care facility, but that is what happened.”
Jefferson County has confirmed a total of 823 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, while Clallam County has confirmed 3,266 cases.
Since the beginning of February, 22.5 percent of new COVID-19 cases in Jefferson County have been among fully vaccinated residents, meaning 77.5 percent of cases have been among unvaccinated residents, according to county data.
Since the beginning of February in Clallam County, 9.9 percent of new COVID-19 cases have been among fully vaccinated residents, meaning 90.1 percent of cases have been among unvaccinated residents, according to county data.
The majority of new COVID-19 cases on the Peninsula continuing to be among unvaccinated residents and Berry continues to strongly urge all residents 12 and older to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at email@example.com.