School-related outbreaks are increasing Jefferson County’s COVID-19 infections, a scenario that isn’t occurring in Clallam County because so many people there have had the virus in the past couple of months, health officials said.
Jefferson County reported 108 new cases since Sept. 30, bringing its total since the pandemic began to 5,961 cases and raising its case rate from 370 per 100,000 to 460 per 100,00. It remained in the high-risk category on Monday.
“Mostly school-related outbreaks are really driving those numbers,” said Dr. Allison Berry, the health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties.
Clallam County remained in the moderate-risk category, reporting 59 new cases on Monday to bring its total to 15,636 since the pandemic began. Clallam’s case rate declined from 170 per 100,000 to 153 per 100,000.
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.
Both counties saw outbreaks just weeks after the school year started, Berry said. She attributed some of the numbers in Jefferson being due to its size.
“Jefferson is so small that a little change in these cases can affect the case rate quite a bit,” she said. “But we are seeing more cases week over week at this point that we do think it’s a trend.”
No new deaths from the virus have been reported in either county. Two Clallam County residents were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Oct. 3.
Looking ahead to the winter months, Berry said there are some concerns about “co-infection,” where someone can have COVID-19 and a cold or the flu at the same time.
“Co-infection means someone has been infected by both viruses and they are in their body at the same time,” Berry said. “The viruses are not really interacting with each other, it’s just that when your body has to fight two viruses at the same time, it’s really hard on it, and we often see more severe disease in those cases.”
Berry said many of the more severe COVID-19 cases on the Peninsula last winter were people who had both COVID-19 and the flu or COVID-19 and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), which most commonly affects infants, young children and older adults.
“It’s a good reminder to get both your flu and COVID-19 vaccine,” Berry said. “There is not a broadly available RSV vaccine unless you are in a very high-risk group, and that is usually very small children.”
Vaccines are available all across the Olympic Peninsula, including the Bivalent omicron booster, in pharmacies and primary care clinics.
“We have plenty of COVID-19 and flu vaccines available for anyone who is eligible to receive vaccines, and we are encouraging everyone to go out and get them,” Berry said.