Woman’s death 18th in Clallam

Peninsula counties break records

A woman in her 60s has died of COVID-19, raising the total number of deaths in Clallam County to 18 and 22 for the North Olympic Peninsula.

The woman died last Wednesday after she had been hospitalized out of the county, said Dr. Allison Berry, the health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties.

Health officials in Clallam County were notified of the woman’s death on Monday, Berry said.

The woman had underlying health conditions and was unvaccinated, Berry said.

“The vast, vast majority of people who are hospitalized and die from this infection are unvaccinated,” Berry said. “We know the vaccines aren’t 100 percent effective. It is possible to get infected and possibly very sick if vaccinated, but the risk is so, so much lower if you’re vaccinated.

“Most of these deaths now are preventable, and the No. 1 way to prevent them is to get vaccinated right away.”

Both Peninsula counties reached record-high COVID-19 case rates Monday, as the novel coronavirus and its highly contagious variants continue to spread.

“Case numbers are worse than they’ve ever been in this response,” Berry said in her Monday briefing to the Board of Jefferson County commissioners.

Clallam County’s case rate rose to 282 per 100,000 population for the past two weeks as of Monday, surpassing the mark of 217 cases per 100,000 that was recorded on Friday.

It confirmed 75 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend, according to county public health data.

Jefferson County’s case rate rose to 197.49 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Saturday. It’s second-highest case rate was recorded at 156 per 100,000 in November during the holiday season surge.

Jefferson County added 13 new cases over the weekend, according to county public health data.

A new COVID-19 outbreak was confirmed among three unvaccinated staff members at Olympic Corrections Center in Forks on Monday. The outbreak at the Clallam County jail remained at five staff members, Berry said.

Three Clallam County residents and two Jefferson County residents were hospitalized locally for COVID-19 as of Monday, Berry said.

The health care system on the Peninsula is starting to show strains, as hospital staff members are being exposed to the virus outside of the workplace and being required to stay home and quarantine if they’re unvaccinated, Berry said.

The church outbreak in Clallam County that had 28 residents infected earlier this summer was recently confirmed to have been caused by the delta variant. Those cases, in addition to five unrelated cases and the 15 previously confirmed, raise the total of discovered delta-variant cases in Clallam County to 48.

However, Berry said she expects more cases are circulating in the community that haven’t been captured in testing.

Statewide on Monday, Gov. Jay Inslee mandated all state workers, private health care employees and long-term care employees to get vaccinated for COVID-19 by Oct. 18 or lose their jobs, allowing exceptions for medical and religious reasons, but not philosophical.

Berry said she supports the mandate and urges all residents 12 and older to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

“We’re seeing a dramatic rise in cases, and the risk of exposure is incredibly high,” Berry said. “If you get vaccinated today, the probability that we’re going to see you in the (Intensive Care Unit) in the next two weeks is next to zero.

“We’re already seeing strain on our health care system, and I anticipate that is going to get a lot worse.”

Data compiled by the state Department of Health shows that, in Jefferson County, 75.3 percent of residents 12 and older have initiated vaccinations, 72 percent are fully vaccinated, and 69.2 percent of the total population has started vaccinations, and 66.3 percent are fully vaccinated, according to the state’s dashboard.

Clallam County has vaccinated 65.5 percent of residents 12 and older with at least one dose, with 61 percent fully vaccinated, while 58.2 percent of the total population has begun vaccinations with 54.2 percent fully vaccinated, according to the state’s dashboard.

Clallam County has confirmed a total of 1,843 cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. Jefferson County has confirmed a total of 554 cases.

Eighteen people have died from COVID-19 in Clallam County, while four have died in Jefferson County.

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at zjablonski@peninsuladailynews.com.

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