Round 1 vaccines wrapping up

No cases of influenza on Peninsula yet, officials say

The first round of COVID-19 vaccinations for the Phase 1A group are expected to be completed over the next two weeks, and the second round of shots is expected to start soon on the North Olympic Peninsula.

At the same time, no cases of influenza have been confirmed so far on the Peninsula, local health officers said.

Clallam County confirmed five new COVID-19 cases late Sunday and four new cases Monday for a total of nine, and Jefferson County confirmed four new cases, according to county public health data.

Of the new Clallam County cases, some are related to the current long-term care facility outbreak that is being investigated, rising its total to 14 cases with eight residents and six staff infected, while the remaining cases stem from social gatherings and workplace exposures, said Dr. Allison Berry Unthank, the county health officer.

The new cases in Jefferson County are primarily household contacts of previously confirmed cases. However, one of the recent cases had several in-county contacts while infectious, and Dr. Tom Locke, the county health officer, said more cases may arise as a result during the coming days.

Both health officers said they’re concerned about a potential surge in cases driven by gatherings over the Christmas weekend. They said the first of those cases may start to appear at the end of this week or early next week.

“We have a seen a solid flattening of our curve, which is good,” Berry Unthank said. “Now, we really want to see those numbers start to decrease. The big wild card, of course, is the holidays.

“We will be following those numbers very closely going forward. Really, we would be likely to see that kind of a surge likely next week.

“But we’re cautiously optimistic that the same good behavior that got us through Thanksgiving without a significant surge will do the same for Christmas, but that remains to be seen,” Berry Unthank said.

As of Monday, there have been no confirmed influenza patients on the Peninsula this fall, even while some people have been tested for it, both Berry Unthank and Locke said.

Statewide, flu activity is low, with only one case in the past four weeks, Locke said.

“We are seeing no significant influenza spread in Washington yet,” he said. “But we’re not out of the woods yet.”

The low influenza activity has been attributed to three things: peak season for flu cases is normally between February and March, there have been very high numbers of people who received the flu vaccine, and precautions for COVID-19 such as mask wearing, social distancing and hand washing also work against other respiratory illnesses like the flu, Berry Unthank said.

Vaccinations

Both counties continue to vaccinate members of the Phase 1A group, which includes healthcare workers, at-risk first responders, long-term care facility staff and residents.

In Jefferson County, Jefferson Healthcare is overseeing the vaccinations of the group, except for long-term care residents, who will receive the vaccine through a federal program that is hoped to begin this week, Locke said.

Both counties have enough vaccine to vaccinate all of the Phase 1A group and hope to complete the first shots — as both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines require two doses taken three and four weeks a part, respectively — over the next two to three weeks, both Berry Unthank and Locke said.

The second round of shots is expected to start in Jefferson County next week and Clallam County the week after, they said.

Phase 1B participants are still unknown as officials wait on the governor’s office to issue the specifics of who will be prioritized, although it is hoped that decision will be made by the end of this week, Locke said.

So far this month, Clallam County has confirmed 212 cases, about 29.1 percent of the 728 the county has confirmed since March, according to Clallam County Public Health data.

Jefferson County has confirmed 48 cases of COVID-19, about 22 percent of the 218 the county has confirmed since March, according to Jefferson County Public Health data.

Eighty-one COVID-19 cases were active as of Monday in Clallam County, with two patients hospitalized and one in the intensive care unit. Jefferson County had 13 active cases.

The test positivity on the Peninsula — the percentage of tests returned positive — was 3.9 percent in Clallam County for Dec. 11-25, and 3.33 percent in Jefferson County for Dec. 21-27.

Jefferson County is in the state’s moderate-risk category with a case rate of 62.7 per 100,000 population for the two weeks prior as of Monday.

Clallam County is in the state’s high-risk category with a case rate of 134 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Monday.

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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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