While Jefferson County is currently avoiding health care capacity constraints, Olympic Medical Center based in Port Angeles has 15 of its 17 Intensive Care Unit beds in use, health officials said.
Of the 15, three are COVID-19 patients, and the rest are hospitalized for non-COVID reasons, but the capacity constraints are a cause for concern for health officials, said Dr. Allison Berry, Clallam County health officer.
Two of the COVID-19 ICU patients are on ventilators.
“They’re doing quite poorly,” Berry said. “One may need to be transferred out” to a hospital in King or Pierce counties, Berry said.
“One of the things that cause you to be needed to be transferred out is organ failure and needing things like dialysis. That means you need a higher level of care than what we can provide here.”
All hospitals have contingency plans for times when more intensive care beds are needed. Currently OMC has not had to resort to its plan, but if hospitalizations continue to rise, it may, Berry said.
“I think a lot of people think the pandemic is over, and it’s certainly not out here,” she said.
Both Clallam and Jefferson counties are working to manage small outbreaks among unvaccinated friends and families in the more rural parts of the counties, specifically south Jefferson County and the West End, said Berry and Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer.
“Unfortunately, I’m expecting this to occur periodically throughout the summer,” Locke said. “We’ll have outbreaks among the unvaccinated households and groups of people if they share the value of not getting vaccinated. If that’s something they have in common, they’re really at risk when they get together.
“The protections — the masking, the distancing, the capacity limits — those things are going away, so people who are unvaccinated need to be taking not less precautions, but more precautions, Locke added.
“The vaccines have been very successful for those willing to take them.”
Officials in both counties have been conducting outreach and pop-up clinics to make vaccines more available in the remote areas of the North Olympic Peninsula.
In the West End, Forks pharmacies and clinics are starting to receive vaccines, finally, which will make vaccination appointments more accessible for residents, Berry said.
In Jefferson County, a pop-up clinic is scheduled from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. today at the Tri-Area Food Bank, 760 Chimacum Road. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are available.
Walk-ins are welcome; appointments also can be made at https://tinyurl.com/TriAreaAppointments.
Today and Friday, Clallam County Public Health officials will offer Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Port Angeles Food Bank, 632 N. Oakridge Drive, according to the clinic calendar.
More vaccination clinics on the North Olympic Peninsula can be found at www.peninsuladailynews.com/news/gamma-variant-infections-increasing-statewide.
The state has a vaccination locator at https://vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov, which allows users to see where appointments are available and which vaccine will be used.
While all state residents 12 and older are eligible to be vaccinated, anyone younger than 18 can receive only Pfizer’s vaccine.
Eighty-one cases have been confirmed in June so far in Clallam County, about 5.66 percent of 1,432 cases reported since the pandemic began, according to county data.
Jefferson County has confirmed 26 cases this month, about 5.87 percent of the 443 total cases since the pandemic began, according to county data.
Twenty-five cases were active in Clallam County on Tuesday with six hospitalized and three in the ICU. Jefferson County had eight active cases and at least one hospitalization.
Clallam County has recorded 12 deaths due to COVID-19 while Jefferson County has recorded four.
Clallam County is in the state’s high-risk category with a case rate of 82 per 100,000 population for the past two weeks as of Tuesday. As the two large outbreaks in Clallam County are brought to an end, Berry said she expects the case rate to start dropping again.
Jefferson County is in the state’s moderate-risk category with a case rate of 68.97 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Saturday.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]