PORT ANGELES — Clallam Bay Corrections Center was poised to lose about 20 officers after Monday’s deadline for state employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and Olympic Medical Center about 40, according to the health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties.
State employees and health care workers are among those required by an order from Gov. Jay Inslee to be fully vaccinated or have received a medical or religious exemption and job accommodation by Monday to keep their jobs.
The mandate applies to most state workers, long-term care employees, and teachers and staff at the state’s schools, including the state’s colleges and universities.
Last week, the state announced that nearly 90 percent of the 61,821 state workers covered by the mandate had been vaccinated.
While state corrections officers are covered by the mandate, law enforcement staffers who do not work for the state — other than paramedics working for fire departments — are not. Of those, Berry said that over 90 percent have been vaccinated in the Port Angeles Police Department but she did not know about others.
As of last week, about 20 staffers at Clallam Bay Corrections Center had not fulfilled the state requirements, Berry said. No recent update on the total staffing level at the prison could be found for this story.
“Any loss of staff is a big challenge,” Berry said at the Clallam County COVID-19 briefing on Friday.
Berry said that at OMC in Port Angeles, out of 1,675 staff members, only about 40 had not fulfilled requirements as of last week and were at risk of termination.
“We’ve seen good responses in health care facilities,” Berry said.
“The early concern was that we would see massive staffing losses and we‘re not seeing it.
“Most people in health care don’t want to expose their patients to infectious diseases.”
Berry reported 11 additional cases in Clallam County on Friday, bringing the total since the beginning of the pandemic to 4,616.
The case rate is 480 per 100,000.
“We’re continuing to see improvement but the rate is still high,” Berry said.
Clallam County’s positivity rate was 11.3 percent, she said.
“The peak was 24 percent,” she said. “We’d like to see that number less than 5 percent.”
Three people are hospitalized in Clallam County, which had had 202 hospitalizations so far.
Fifty-three people in Clallam County have died of the virus.
“This is the first week in quite some time that we have not had any new deaths,” Berry said Friday.
Six more cases were confirmed in Jefferson County as of Friday, bringing the total since the pandemic to 1,064.
Most were from household contacts of recent cases with a couple related to out-of-state or out-of-county travel, Berry said.
Jefferson County’s case rate is down to 157 per 100,000.
One person was in a hospital out of the county, she said.
Berry said that improvement does not mean that the delta variant has run its course.
“We haven’t reached herd immunity to delta,” she said.
Berry broke down the case rate by area of Clallam County.
She reported a case rate of 1,275 per 100,000 on the West End, compared to 436 per 100,000 in Port Angeles and 339 per 100,000 in Sequim. Berry pointed out that rates on Port Angeles and Sequim are still very high rates of transmission.
“There’s a misunderstanding that there is no transmission in Port Angeles and Sequim,” Berry said. “That’s not true but there are very high rates on the West End.
The outbreak at the Clallam Bay Corrections Center is not the driver of the high rate of transmission on the West End, she emphasized.
“It does not make up the majority of our cases. It’s 90 percent from other areas and 10 percent from Clallam Bay.”
She attributed the regional variation to less compliance with health measures on the West End.
“The primary driver in Port Angeles and Sequim is a change in public behavior,” Berry said.
The health officer said that she had seen the top reason for new vaccinations being that a person saw a friend or relative get sick.
She said Clallam County has had 60 percent fully vaccinated.
About 17 percent had contracted COVID-19.
“So 77 percent of our community has some degree of protection,” Berry said.
“We need to get closer to 85-90 percent.
People can be reinfected, “so if you had it in the past it’s still important to get vaccinated,” she said.
“If more chose to get vaccinated, we can get back to normal.”
Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.