Peninsula numbers leveling, but state cases may take a few more weeks

Super-spreaders blamed for 135 infections, official says

While the North Olympic Peninsula is seeing a plateau on COVID-19 case rates, county health officers aren’t expecting to see a significant decrease in cases statewide until possibly the end of the month.

Nationally, case numbers have decreased by 30 percent over the past two weeks, while Washington state has had about a 4 percent drop, said Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer, during his Monday briefing with the county commissioners.

“We’re not really over the crest of the fourth wave, but we think it’s coming,” Locke said.

Clallam County Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry agreed, citing the county’s case rate of 118 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Monday. She hopes the case rate will start to decrease as the outbreaks from the three super-spreader events wind down.

“I am cautiously optimistic that that will start going down,” Berry said. “We don’t have any new active outbreaks that we’re tracing, so we do anticipate that case rate will go down, assuming we don’t have additional outbreaks.”

Jefferson County, which confirmed three new cases Monday, had a case rate of 62.7 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Saturday. A total of 15 cases have been confirmed so far this month in Jefferson County, 3.75 percent of the total 405 cases confirmed in the past year, according to county public health data.

Clallam County confirmed six new COVID-19 cases on Monday, and they continue be associated with the three super-spreader events — one wedding and two parties — that have now have resulted in 135 cases in the county since April 16, Berry said.

The events each had between 30 and 45 attendees who were primarily unvaccinated and unmasked, Berry has said. One was located in Port Angeles, one was on the West End and one was in Sequim, she said. Many of those infected are children.

As a result of the subsequent virus exposures, other outbreaks being tracked in Clallam County include four daycare centers and a high school wrestling team, Berry has said.

Clallam County has confirmed 57 cases so far this month, about 4.42 percent of the 1,290 cases reported since the pandemic began, according to county data.

Both health officers continue to work to address vaccination hesitancy, and Locke broke down the people who have not been vaccinated into three groups: those haven’t been able to due to time and/or ease of access, those who are hesitant or wanting to wait to see how others react, and those who are opposed to the COVID-19 vaccines or vaccines in general.

Both counties have been working to increase access and availability of vaccine and are attempting to convince the hesitant people to get vaccinated. Officials don’t expect to change the mind of people fully opposed to the vaccinations at this time.

Both health officers continue to urge residents 16 and older to get vaccinated as soon as they can, as it will be crucial to bringing an end to the pandemic, they said.

“If we continue to see an increase in vaccinations here, what we would likely anticipate is kind of a dialing down of COVID-19 precautions,” Berry said. “I think one of the places where we’ve seen some misunderstanding is herd immunity is like a light switch; we either hit it or we don’t.

“It’s really much more gradual than that. When we see more people immunized, we’re going to see less cases, less outbreaks, and we’re going to be able to see our COVID-19 safety precautions dialed back.”

At the rate of vaccinations on the Peninsula, it’s possible restrictions may be loosened more by next month, Berry said.

Vaccines are available at the vast majority of pharmacies and health clinics on the Peninsula. Vaccinations are free and the state has a locator at https://vaccine locator.doh.wa.gov.

Forty-four COVID-19 cases were active as of Monday in Clallam County, with two patients currently hospitalized in the Intensive Care Unit. Jefferson County had nine active cases Monday.

The Peninsula has had 12 deaths related to COVID-19, with nine in Clallam County and three in Jefferson County.

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]

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