Most of the news about the pandemic on the North Olympic Peninsula is good right now but both health officers worry it won’t last.
Vaccine supply is increasing weekly, said Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer, who expects supply to double in April and May.
Clallam County is on track to reach herd immunity by June, according to Dr. Allison Berry, county health officer, who reported Friday that the clinic at the Port Angeles would run for only one day — Saturday — because “we are running out of people to give it to” in the present tier.
With no new cases reported Friday or Saturday on the Peninsula, Clallam County has plateaued in a low-to-moderate range of transmission, Berry said. Jefferson County has stayed in the low-risk category for several weeks — and if it survives the weekend with no new cases confirmed, then the county will have had no additional cases for a full two weeks, Locke said.
Eligibility for vaccinations is expanding and supply is increasing. It’s all cause for hopefulness, but not for a relaxing of protective measures, the officers said, at least not now, not yet.
“The UK variant is here in Washington state,” Locke said in a Saturday interview. “It’s more contagious. If people let down their guard prematurely, the consequence will be more infection.”
People in Clallam County “have been cautious and taken care of each other,” Berry said, but she expects to see cases rise in neighboring counties soon.
Both health officers said they anticipate a fourth wave of the virus elsewhere in the nation and in Washington state and they don’t want to see that happen in Clallam and Jefferson counties.
“While more things are allowed, that doesn’t necessarily mean everything is safe.” Berry said.
Potentially unsafe practices could include congregating in large groups, indoors in particular, but also outdoors; forgoing wearing face masks, practicing social distancing or washing hands often; and travel outside the county.
“We have to be very cautious until we see the impact of the variants,” Locke said.
Locke encourages people to support restaurants by dining outdoors or taking takeout. Indoor dining is more risky but the risk is lessened if diners keep their masks on when not eating.
The Centers for Disease Control says that those who have been fully vaccinated — having waited two weeks after their second shots — can gather indoors with fully vaccinated people in private residences without wearing face masks.
But even those who have been vaccinated should continue to wear masks in public, avoid crowds and take other precautions when gathering with unvaccinated people who are at high risk of serious illness from COVID-19.
“It’s an ambitious goal that we will be able to offer vaccine to anyone who wants it by May 1, but I totally support that” goal, Locke said.
Beginning Wednesday, those in 1B2 tier will be added to the eligibility list statewide. They include critical workers in congregate settings such as grocery stores, food banks, agriculture, courts, jails and corrections, as well as first responders not vaccinated under 1A, and people older than 16 who are pregnant or who have disabilities that put them at high risk for COVID-19 complications.
The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe can vaccinate those in 1B2 earlier than the rest of the Peninsula. A Sequim clinic is scheduled Tuesday, as well as Thursday. Appointments are available at http://vaccine.clallam.net/register.
The Port Angeles High School clinic will be on both Saturday and Sunday this coming weekend. To register, go to http://vaccine.clallam.net/register or call 360-417-2430.
Beginning Monday, Jefferson Healthcare will offer vaccinations every day of the week, alternating between first and second doses, according to the hospital web page at jeffersonhealthcare.org/covid-19-vaccine.
On Sunday, Jefferson County emergency management will host a clinic at Chimacum High School, Locke said. Information about hours and how to register for the clinic will be released Monday.
Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected].