Two more deaths from COVID-19

Monkeypox case found in Clallam County

Two Clallam County residents have died from COVID-19, bringing the county’s total deaths from the virus to 121.

Dr. Allison Berry, the health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties, also reported the first monkeypox case on the North Olympic Peninsula in a young adult man in Clallam County.

Berry said the deaths were both elderly men, one in his 70s who was unvaccinated and one in his 80s who was vaccinated and had one booster. Both had significant underlying health conditions that contributed to their deaths, she said.

“Unfortunately, this is a critical reminder that COVID-19 can still be very dangerous, especially if you are over 65, so it’s really important to go forward and get your second booster,” Berry said.

No new deaths from the virus have been reported in Jefferson County, which has lost 30 residents to COVID-19 in the past two years.

Berry reported to the Board of Jefferson County Commissioners on Monday that COVID-19 cases are trending downward nationally and even faster in the state.

Clallam County reported a total of 15,283 cases since the pandemic began, an increase of 272 since last Tuesday, with a case rate of 395 per 100,000 population. Two people were hospitalized Monday at Olympic Medical Center.

Jefferson County reported a total of 5,521 cases since the pandemic began, an increase of 86 since last Monday, with a case rate of 463 per 100,000. One person was hospitalized with the virus Monday at Jefferson Healthcare.

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.

Berry said COVID-19 booster shots that specifically target the omicron variant should be available to the public by mid-September.

“All of the vaccines for COVID-19 that we distribute right now are used against the original strain of the virus, and as we all know, the virus has changed a lot over the last two years,” she said. “So this next round of boosters, assuming everything moves well through the approval process, would include the ancestral strain on the virus and an omicron sublineage so that it is more similar to what is circulating right now and offers more and longer-lasting protection.”

Once it’s approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration, the vaccine will be prioritized to those most at risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19 and then it will be available to those 18 and older.

Monkeypox

The monkeypox (MPV) case was the first on the Peninsula. King County declared it a public health emergency on Friday.

“It was a young adult man,” Berry said. “We do not believe he contracted the virus through sex. We think he picked it up at a party outside the county.”

The majority of the transmission of MPV has occurred in the LGBTQ community, specifically from men engaging in sex with other men. However, it is not exclusive to that community as MPV travels via prolonged skin-to-skin contact, public health officials have said.

“While we are seeing most transmissions through sex, it is a skin-to-skin disease, so going to parties or clubs and rubbing up against other people, it is possible to contract MPV that way, and we have seen that happen in some instances across the country,” Berry said.

Berry praised the actions of the man, noting got tested so he could get treatment quickly and so the Clallam County Department of Health could begin contact tracing and offer the vaccine or treatment to anyone who may have been exposed.

“He is doing quite well and should recover very soon,” Berry said.

Clallam and Jefferson counties do have access to the MPV vaccine, although it is limited to those at high risk of contracting it.

“We just don’t have enough of the vaccine available to provide it to the general public at this point, and because this is disproportionately affecting the gay community, we are prioritizing our usage,” Berry said.

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

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