Masking is recommended in indoor spaces as COVID-19 case rates and hospitalizations rise across the Peninsula.
“Our case rates are incredibly high, so I would strongly recommend masking in indoor spaces,” said Dr. Allison Berry, the health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties. “It’s concerning to see how many people still are not masking in indoor spaces.”
Clallam County reported a case rate Monday of 403 per 100,000 population with a total of 11,691 cases since the pandemic began, while Jefferson County reported a case rate of 537 per 100,000 with a total of 3,603 cases since the pandemic began.
That places both counties in the state’s high-risk category for COVID-19.
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 these case rates may be double what has been reported due to recently collected ascertainment data.
“Looking at what’s called case ascertainment, the probability that we find any of these cases, we do think our case ascertainment is quite a bit higher in Jefferson and Clallam because of our ability to capture data from at-home antigen tests,” she said.
“For Jefferson and Clallam County, we estimate that our case ascertainment rate is closer to 50 percent, so we are catching about half of the cases that are out there, so take our case rates and double them, and that’s likely the true case rate here.
That means the case rate is likely closer to more than 800 per 100,000 in Clallam County and more than 1,000 per 100,000 in Jefferson County.
“Right now, the state as a whole is reporting a case ascertainment rate of about 16 percent, which means if you look at the state’s case rate and multiply it by six and that will give you an idea of what the case rate is,” Berry said.
The state’s current case rate is 264 per 100,000. However, if it’s multiplied by six, the case rate comes out to 1,584 per 100,000.
Despite the rising numbers of cases, Berry said a masking mandate is not likely to occur unless health districts see a surge in hospitalizations.
“It’s starting to become a conversation at the state level about whether or not we need to move back to mandatory masking,” she said. “But the general feeling I am hearing from other county leaders and state leaders is that they are unlikely to move to mandatory making unless we see a significant surge in hospitalizations.”
On Monday, three Clallam county residents and one Jefferson county resident were hospitalized with COVID-19, all of whom were unvaccinated, Berry said. That aligns with the trends that have been seen in other hospitals, she added.
“At this point, we are primarily seeing hospitalization of patients who are still unvaccinated or, to a smaller degree, elderly people who have not received their first booster,” Berry said. “We are not seeing hospitalizations of those who have received their full vaccine course and their boosters.”
Berry added there are more cases of reinfection for those who have had COVID-19 and still have not been vaccinated, and that group is also where health officials are seeing more severe disease, particularly if they contract the BA.2 variant of omicron.
“We are seeing faster and more severe reinfection,” Berry said. “If your only immunity comes from prior infection, it’s really important to go ahead and get that vaccine to reduce your risk of not only getting sick but of getting severe disease in particular.”
Reporter Ken Park can be reached by email at [email protected]