Clallam County’s COVID death is 13th recorded; Man in his 40s had chronic condition

Clallam County confirmed its 10th death due to COVID-19, increasing the North Olympic Peninsula’s total to 13 deaths since the pandemic began.

The man, who was in his 40s, died late Friday, May 14, after he was hospitalized in Clallam County for COVID-19 complications.

The young father did have a chronic condition, but “he was well and working, living a very normal life before this happened,” said Dr. Allison Berry, Clallam County health officer.

Berry offered condolences on behalf of the public health department.

“We’ve spoken to them a lot over the course of this time, and we know that his death is going to leave a big hole in our community,” she said.

Both Clallam and Jefferson counties held with no new COVID-19 cases added on Monday, according to public health data.

While he decided to uphold the Jefferson County face mask mandate in businesses and restaurants, Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke removed all outdoor masking requirements. He made the announcement during his Monday morning briefing with the three county commissioners.

On Thursday, Gov. Jay Inslee said he was adopting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidance on mask wearing, which allows vaccinated people to no longer have to wear face masks unless on public transit such as a bus or plane, at a hospital or correctional facility, or if a business or local government agency requires them.

Locke urged residents who are unvaccinated — anyone 12 and older can be vaccinated against COVID-19 for free in Washington — to get a shot as soon as possible. He said the masking order will last until June 30 or sooner, in line with the state’s planned reopening of the economy.

“We should all continue to wear masks indoors until all of us don’t need to,” Locke said.

“The vaccines have worked far beyond our wildest hopes, and really are our way out of this pandemic.”

Berry said she’s concerned Inslee’s remarks regarding masking, reopening and schools fully opening next fall have made people think the pandemic is already over even though the state is still seeing high case rates overall. The state’s reopening plans rely on people getting vaccinated and continuing to follow protocols, she said.

“I think it may unintentionally give the wrong impression that we’ve beaten this virus and we really haven’t yet,” Berry said.

“I think we can beat this virus, but the way that we do it is we get as many people as we can vaccinated as soon as possible, and we keep up reasonable mitigation measures until we get to that point.”

Businesses in Jefferson County are required to have employees and customers wear masks, while Clallam County largely has a choice now for those who are vaccinated.

However, people are required to wear a mask if the business asks them to, vaccinated or not, the governor’s office has said.

Both Berry and Locke said they received reports of people arguing over the weekend with business employees who asked them to wear masks.

“If you’re going into a business, you have to follow the rules of that business,” Berry said. “If masks are required to go in, you have to wear a mask, whether you’re vaccinated or not.”

The state has a vaccination locator at vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov, which allows users to see where appointments are available and which vaccine is going to be used.

While all Washington state residents 12 and older are eligible to be vaccinated, anyone younger than 18 can only receive Pfizer’s vaccine.

The full calendar for pop-up clinics in Clallam County can be viewed at tinyurl.com/PDN-ClallamPopUps.

Clallam County has confirmed 81 cases so far this month, about 6.16 percent of the 1,314 cases reported since the pandemic began, according to county data.

A total of 22 cases have been confirmed so far this month in Jefferson County, about 5.34 percent of the 412 total cases confirmed in the past year, according to county public health data.

Thirty-three COVID-19 cases were active as of Monday in Clallam County, with two patients currently hospitalized in the Intensive Care Unit. Jefferson County had six active cases Monday.

The Peninsula has had 13 deaths related to COVID-19, with 10 in Clallam County and three in Jefferson County.

Clallam County is in the state’s high-risk category with a case rate of 79 per 100,000 population for the past two weeks as of Monday, while Jefferson County is in the moderate-risk category with a case rate of 50.16 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Saturday.

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