Virus cases rising on Olympic Peninsula

Increase follows statewide trend

Jefferson County on Sunday confirmed six new COVID-19 cases and one death of a man who had been hospitalized with the virus, while Clallam County reported three additional cases.

That brings Jefferson County to 371 cases since the pandemic began in March 2020, with 20 of those in the past two weeks, said Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer, noting that the county had a case rate of 62 per 100,000 population as of Sunday.

“It could go higher than that,” he said Sunday, saying the results of tests done Saturday will not be known until sometime today.

A man in his early 60s who had been hospitalized with COVID-19 died, it was reported to Locke late Saturday. Although the man was suffering from multiple serious chronic conditions, Locke said Sunday he expects the man’s cause of death to be recorded as the virus. If so, Jefferson County will have had three COVID-19 deaths.

Clallam County, which was at 112 cases per 100,000 on Saturday, was reported on Sunday to be up to 1,169 confirmed cases since the pandemic began.

“We’re definitely seeing a fourth wave, and it’s dominated by variants,” Locke said.

For that reason, “we’re encouraging everyone over 16 to get vaccinated as soon as possible so we can get through this wave and get back to normal as soon as possible,” said Dr. Allison Berry, Clallam County health officer, in a text on Sunday.

“We have plenty of slots available for next weekend.”

No new hospitalizations or deaths were reported Sunday in Clallam County, which has had seven deaths since March 2020.

Clallam, Jefferson and Kitsap counties all are seeing a rise in cases, Locke said, adding that throughout the pandemic Jefferson County has had a slower rise in cases than either of its neighbors.

The rise in cases on the North Olympic Peninsula is largely driven by variants of the original COVID-19, Locke said.

“The leading variants are two out of California that are more contagious than previous strains,” he said, adding that the variant confirmed in Jefferson County has been B.1.429, a mutation that arose in California, while Clallam County has seen the U.K. variant, which is considered to often lead to more severe illness.

“It’s very much a statewide trend,” Locke added, saying variants are considered to be the cause of some 90 percent of new cases in Washington, with about one-third due to the U.K. variant.

The Interstate-5 corridor counties, such as King and Pierce, are driving the outbreaks and the case rates in the state, Locke said.

In Jefferson County, most clusters have been in households, he said.

The new variants increase that risk, he added.

“It is more likely that if one member of a household gets it, others (in that household) will get it also,” Locke said.

“For those who are unimmunized, the chances of getting infected are going up and up,” he said.

Advice for protection against the new variants is to continue wearing face masks when in public, wash hands frequently, avoid large gatherings and minimize travel, health officers say, adding that vaccination is the best protection.

“I think the risks for those completely vaccinated is extremely low,” Locke said. “It’s fine to hang out with people who are fully vaccinated without masking or distancing.”

“It also appears to be safe for people fully vaccinated to visit people not fully vaccinated as long as they are not high risks,” such as visiting grandchildren.

“It’s really about gatherings, travel and visitors — those are where the risks are,” Locke said.

Testing post-travel is recommended. Locke noted that the state Department of Health has contracts with Walgreens and Rite-Aid to cover post-travel testing costs not paid by insurance companies.

Vaccination clinics

Appointments for Jefferson Healthcare’s clinics on Thursday and Friday can be made at https://jeffersonhealthcare.org/covid-19-vaccine.

Appointments for both Saturday and Sunday clinics at Port Angeles High School can be made at http://vaccine.clallam.net/register or by phone at 360-417-2430.

Jim’s Pharmacy in Port Angeles has Moderna appointments available on Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday. Appointments can be made at jimsrx.com.

Appointments for the Jefferson County Public Health’s clinic on Saturday can be made at bit.ly/jeffcovax or by calling 360-344-9791.

Forks Community Hospital has a Moderna vaccination clinic scheduled for April 30. More information can be found at www.ForksHospital.org.

The state has created a vaccination locator at https://vaccine locator.doh.wa.gov.

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Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at lleach@peninsuladailynews.com.

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