Spike seen in under-10 Peninsula COVID cases

Locke: Too small for trend

Most of the coronavirus cases in Clallam and Jefferson counties over the past two weeks have occurred among children up to 10 years old, health officials said Friday and Saturday.

“The vast majority of cases of what we’re seeing is cases among young kids,” county Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry said Friday at a COVID-19 briefing.

“Kids are not immune to this virus, and they are not vaccinated, so it is very much possible for them to transmit the virus among each other.”

One child who had to be transferred out of the county for medical care “is doing quite well now,” although it’s uncommon for children to get severely ill, Berry said.

Clallam County reported two more cases between Friday and Saturday, raising the total to 1,041 cases since the pandemic began in early 2020, Berry said Saturday in a text message. They, too, were 10 or younger, she said.

In Jefferson County, three of the last six cases over the last two weeks were children under 10 years old, two of whom were in the same household, Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke said Saturday.

“We don’t have enough cases on the Peninsula to identify this as being a trend or of special significance, at least from my perspective,” Locke said.

Statewide, the trend is an increasing number of residents age 20 to 39 getting the virus, he said.

Locke said the county had no new cases reported between Friday and Saturday, keeping the total in Jefferson to 343.

Clallam and Jefferson counties remain the top two of the state’s 39 counties for vaccination rates, with both counties sitting at about a quarter of all residents being fully vaccinated.

Vaccinations will be open to all state residents over 16 years old May 1.

Vaccine demand was so low in Clallam County this weekend that administration of doses today at Port Angeles High School was cancelled.

The opposite seemed true in Jefferson County. Locke said an inaugural Chimacum High School vaccination event is set for today, and a clinic also was conducted at Chimacum Grange this weekend.

“The Chimacum events are filled, so that’s good,” he said.

“There’s still strong demand, so we’re still planning to do the same thing again next week. We’re not cutting back as of yet on any of our clinics.”

In 10 days — on March 31 — vaccinations statewide will be open to anyone over 16 with two or more co-morbidities, including heart disease, high blood pressure, asthma and diabetes. Eligibility also will expand to anyone between 60-64 from a limit of those 65 and older.

Also eligible will be people who live or work in congregate settings.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday that indoor visitation at the state’s nursing homes and long-term care facilities are allowed for visitors or residents who are fully vaccinated.

“We have been running a marathon for quite some time, and we are really in the last mile,” Berry said.

“We are on track to hit herd immunity by the end of May in this community.

“If we open up, start gathering, fly all over the country for spring break, we’ll have a fourth wave,” Berry said, “We’ll have to do this longer, and I don’t think any of us want to do this any longer than we have to.

“If we hit 50 percent vaccinated, we could be done.”

Locke said that milestone could come for Jefferson County by mid-summer.

Berry said Clallam health officials are concerned that the spread of COVID-19 variants could alter the timelines.

“We haven’t seen any variants yet that make the vaccine not work, but we have seen some that make a small decrease in efficacy,” she said

“What the variants tell us is that we are not done yet.”

The goal should be to vaccinate as many people as possible, Locke said.

“It’s a race between the vaccine and the variants.”

________

Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

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