Virus cases still climbing

COVID rates nearing high-water marks

Both North Olympic Peninsula counties have reached some of the highest COVID-19 case rates they have seen since November.

Clallam County reached 189 cases per 100,000 population for the past two weeks as of Monday. The county’s highest case rate was recorded in November at 216 cases per 100,000, said Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties.

Jefferson County has reached 147.34 cases per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Saturday, the second highest case rate it has reported since the pandemic began, Berry said.

Jefferson County’s highest case rate of 156 per 100,000 was also recorded last November during the holiday season surge, Berry said.

The high case rates and virus transmission in both counties are “near exclusively” caused by unvaccinated residents traveling out of county, getting infected with COVID-19 and then bringing it back and spending time with unvaccinated friends, family and coworkers, Berry said.

Jefferson County also confirmed its first case of the more contagious delta variant Monday following genetic sequencing from a previously confirmed case, while Clallam County remained at 15 delta variant cases so far, Berry said.

Genetic sequencing has a delay of two or more weeks, and it’s expected that more delta cases will be found in both counties because it is now the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the state and nation, Berry said.

Berry continues to urge unvaccinated residents who can get vaccinated for COVID-19 to do so as soon as possible to protect themselves and those around them from becoming infected with and transmitting the novel coronavirus.

Only 8 percent of new cases in Clallam County and 6 percent of new cases in Jefferson County have been breakthrough cases since mid-January — cases in which fully vaccinated residents contracted the virus, Berry said.

She added there has been no documentation of transmission in either county so far of a breakthrough case infecting someone else because of the added protection of the vaccine.

“The vaccine is like a really good raincoat,” Berry said. “Really high quality if you’re in a standard rainstorm, most of the fall and winter, it will take care of you, and you won’t get sick.

“If you were in a hurricane or monsoon, you would still get wet. Now it would still help — better than not having a raincoat — but it can get past it,” Berry continued.

“So, when you’re in a situation where you’re getting very high viral load exposures, so if you have delta variant around or in a closed indoor space with lots of unvaccinated people, it’s like being in a raincoat in a monsoon, and it can get past it.”

In most situations, being fully vaccinated is enough protection against COVID-19. However, in higher-risk situations, additional protections such as wearing a facemask are needed, Berry said.

Clallam County Public Health is currently investigating two long-term care facilities due to a resident testing positive for COVID-19 at one and a staff member infected at the other, Berry said.

An outbreak is defined as two or more cases at a facility that has documented transmission.

The facility with one resident sick had its first round of testing completed and returned with no additional cases found yet, Berry said.

It’s believed the resident was infected by a visiting family member, Berry said.

“It’s too early to know for sure we won’t get additional cases,” she said. “It’s still pretty early in the infection period, but we’re hopeful that one will be stopped relatively quickly.”

The facility with the positive staff member was completing its first round of testing Monday, Berry said.

Data compiled by the state Department of Health shows 75 percent of Jefferson County residents 12 and older have initiated vaccinations, with 71.9 percent fully vaccinated, while 69 percent of the total population has started vaccinations, and 66.1 percent are fully vaccinated, according to the state’s dashboard.

Clallam County has vaccinated 64.8 percent of residents 12 and older with at least one dose, with 60.5 percent fully vaccinated, while 57.6 percent of the total population has begun vaccinations with 53.7 percent fully vaccinated, according to the state’s dashboard.

Clallam County confirmed 42 COVID-19 cases over the weekend and has confirmed a total of 1,710 cases since the pandemic began, according to county data. Seventeen residents have died of the disease.

Jefferson County confirmed six COVID-19 cases over the weekend and has confirmed 516 cases since the start of the pandemic, according to county public health data. Four residents have died of the virus.

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]

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