State superintendent comments surprise regional officials

Berry talks of pediatric cases

The North Olympic Peninsula’s health officer said she and superintendents from public school districts in the area were taken off-guard by comments by Chris Reykdal, the state superintendent for public instruction.

On Wednesday, Reykdal appealed to Gov. Jay Inslee to consider having school COVID-19 mitigation decisions made at the local level.

Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties, said Thursday she spoke with some of the region’s superintendents on Wednesday.

“We talked a little bit last night about that, frankly kind of surprising, announcement from Chris Reykdal a lot of us didn’t see coming,” Berry said.

Regional superintendents could not be reached Thursday for comment.

Berry also discussed Reykdal’s comments with health officers around the state.

“I will say the local health jurisdictions do not agree with him,” Berry said. “We don’t think that policy is best made at the local level. I think it leads to a lot more discord when we see a spotty application of policies.”

Berry said health officers in the state agree that now is not the time to lift masking mandates in schools.

They plan to meet soon to discuss the metrics for when that mandate can and should be lifted.

“I do think we will be able to come to a consensus on what a reasonable case rate is,” Berry said.

Berry said the largest number of positive COVID-19 cases on the Peninsula during the past week have been in children 10 to 17 years old. She did not have an exact number.

Despite a slowing in the rate of new infections, health officials statewide are wary in regard to pediatric care.

“While we are not seeing a lot of hospitalizations yet in our kids, the pediatric hospitals are struggling,” Berry said.

“It’s actually a relatively tenuous time for pediatric hospitalizations statewide,” she added. “Of course, we don’t have children’s hospitals here, so if we had a significant surge in cases among kids, we would have trouble providing them care.”

A new death from COVID-19 reported on Thursday brought Jefferson County’s total since the pandemic began to 25.

The deceased was a man in his 90s with underlying conditions who was vaccinated but had not had a booster shot.

Berry said the death illustrates one aspect of the two-pronged nature of the pandemic.

“We are primarily seeing deaths in people who are unvaccinated and then a small subset of people who are vaccinated but not boosted and otherwise very sick, and we are likely to keep seeing that split,” she said.

The best protection for a person who has been vaccinated but also has underlying illnesses is to get a booster shot, she added.

Jefferson County, which will update its case rate today, added 18 new cases on Thursday, bringing its total to 2,815. Its case rate reported after it was updated last Friday was 1,068 cases per 100,000 population during the past two weeks.

Four Jefferson County residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19. Two are at Jefferson Healthcare in Port Townsend, one in the intensive care unit (ICU). The other two are in ICUs at area hospitals.

Clallam County’s case rate dropped on Thursday to 1,255 per 100,000 population from 1,318 reported Wednesday. It added 59 new cases, bringing its total to 10,225.

No deaths were reported in the county, which has a death toll of 97 since the pandemic began.

Fifteen Clallam County residents were hospitalized Thursday with COVID-19. Eleven were at Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles, one in ICU.

Vaccination clinics

Jefferson County will host another vaccination clinic on Saturday at the Brinnon Community Center, 306144 U.S. Highway 101. The clinic will be open from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. with Pfizer vaccine available for people 5 and older and Moderna available for those 18 and older.

The county will host another vaccine clinic on Feb. 19 at Chimacum High School, 91 West Valley Road, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. with the same round of vaccines available.

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Reporter Ken Park can be reached at kpark@peninsuladailynews.com.

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