Three more Peninsula deaths as case numbers begin to creep up

Masks urged if case rates rise over 100 per 100,000 people

Clallam County has reported three new deaths from COVID-19 stemming from a January outbreak at an unidentified long-term care facility.

Those reported on Friday to have died of the virus were a woman in her 90s who was unvaccinated, another woman in her 90s who was vaccinated but not boosted, and a man in his 80s who was vaccinated but not boosted.

All had underlying health conditions that contributed to their deaths from the virus, said Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties.

“This kind of follows the same patterns that we have seen, which is that if you are over 65, especially if you have underlying comorbidities, getting that booster is really, really critical,” Berry said.

The public health office does not report the names of facilities with outbreaks.

The deaths pushed Clallam County’s toll from COVID-19 over the course of the pandemic to 111. Jefferson County’s total remained at 28.

Both counties saw bumps in COVID-19 cases and case rates this week.

“We are starting to see a little bit of a rise in cases,” Berry said Friday.

“That was anticipated based on lifting of both the proof-of-vaccination order and masking mandate” two weeks ago.

Clallam County’s case rate rose from 78 per 100,000 population on Monday to 83 per 100,000 on Friday. It added 34 new COVID cases since Monday, bringing its total since the pandemic began to 10,948.

Jefferson County’s case rate rose from 62 per 100,000 on Monday to 65 per 100,000 on Friday. The county added 11 new cases since Monday, bringing its total since the pandemic began to 3,159.

Case rates are a reflection of cases reported during a two-week period. They are computed using a formula based on 100,000 population even for counties that do not have 100,000 people living in them.

“So far it’s not a severe surge, but we are seeing a little bit of a bump,” Berry said.

“It remains to be seen how high case numbers get,” she added.

“I think it’s important for all of us to be aware that we are likely to see a rise in the region in the coming weeks, and we may get up above that 100 cases per 100,000 threshold, where we would recommend putting masks back on temporarily,” Berry said.

One case of BA.2, an omicron subvariant, was reported on Monday. No new cases have been sequenced from the Peninsula since.

But health officials expect that to change.

According to the state Department of Health COVID-19 dashboard, 29 percent of the COVID-19 cases diagnosed in the state have been sequenced as BA.2.

“We still just have one that has been sequenced here (Clallam County), but of course, we only sequence a small proportion of our cases, and we are seeing a rising percentage of Washington cases, so we are likely to see more and more of that in our community,” Berry said.

“The key thing to know about BA.2 is it is more transmissible than BA.1, but it’s not more severe,” Berry said. “It still responds well to all the same mitigation measures we have used so far.

“While I think it is important to pay attention to it, it’s important to note that the places where BA.2 is getting out of hand, there are other factors at play as well,” Berry added.

Vaccine data

Moderna released data on Wednesday regarding the efficacy of its COVID-19 vaccine for children younger than 6 as the company seeks emergency approval from the FDA.

The vaccine has proven to have 44 percent efficacy for children 6 months to 2 years old and 38 percent efficacy for children 2 to 5 years old.

“It looks promising,” Berry said, but “right now the general public and public health folks as well have only seen the press release from Moderna. We haven’t actually seen the raw data, so we will need to see that first before we can make a formal recommendation.

“I think the key when it comes to the Moderna vaccines for little kids is the primary goal here is to reduce the risk of severe infection, hospitalization and death, just like we do with most other vaccines for kids,” Berry said.

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

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