Community transmission widespread in West End

Health officer says increasing mitigation measures needed

“Almost exclusively” all of the new 41 COVID-19 cases in Clallam County on Wednesday were confirmed in Forks and the West End, the region’s health officer said, as medical professionals work to mitigate widespread community transmission in that area of the North Olympic Peninsula.

“We’re seeing really widespread community transmission in that area,” said Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Jefferson and Clallam counties, regarding Forks and the West End.

“We do think the (Clallam Bay Corrections Center) outbreak largely seeded that, but now we’re seeing really widespread transmission beyond that,” she added on Wednesday.

The outbreak at the corrections center added three more cases among inmates last week, raising the total number from the current outbreak to 165, with 110 cases among inmates and 55 staff as of Saturday, according to the state’s dashboard.

“Forks is really driving the plateau in Clallam,” Berry said.

“I don’t want to blame Forks, but that’s where the transmission is really going on.”

Transmission of COVID-19 in the Port Angeles and Sequim areas have significantly decreased, and transmission in Jefferson County continues to be driven largely by out-of-county and out-of-state travel, not local, community exposure, Berry said.

She noted no single, focused outbreak outside of the prison but said medical professionals are seeing a lot of spread among residents in the West End.

“It’s just general transmission that is relatively out of control,” Berry said.

The spread in the West End is driven by such activities as large gatherings and going to work sick, Berry said.

“We’re seeing lower adherence to other mitigations there — less masking, more gathering — and we know that tends to lead to more transmission,” she said.

The region’s health officer said it appears the corrections center outbreak may be slowing.

“It’s too early to tell, but we’re cautiously hopeful that they’re moving in the right direction,” Berry said.

The new cases in Clallam County raised its total to 4,421 since the pandemic began, according to county public health data.

Jefferson County added six confirmed COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, raising its total to 1,032 since the pandemic began, public health data said.

The plateauing of county case rates for COVID-19 is continuing.

Clallam County’s case rate stayed almost the same on Wednesday, with the county reporting a case rate of 572 per 100,000 population for the past two weeks as of Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the county recorded 570 cases per 100,000 for the two weeks prior, public health data said.

Jefferson County, which records its case rate weekly, on Monday recorded a rate of 275.86 cases per 100,000 for the past two weeks as of Saturday, which was the exact same as the week before.

According to the latest data from the state Department of Health, 79.2 percent of the population 12 and older in Jefferson County have started vaccinations, with 75.5 percent fully vaccinated. Of the entire population, 72.9 percent have begun vaccination and 69.4 percent are fully vaccinated, according to the state’s dashboard.

In Clallam County, 72.2 percent of the population 12 and older have started vaccinations, with 66.8 percent fully vaccinated. Of the total population, 64.1 percent have begun vaccinations, with 59.4 percent fully vaccinated, according to the state’s dashboard.

Since the beginning of February in Clallam County, 17.7 percent of new reported cases have been among fully vaccinated residents, meaning 82.3 percent of reported cases have been among unvaccinated residents, according to county data.

During the same time period in Jefferson County, 25.79 percent of new reported cases have been among fully vaccinated residents, meaning 74.21 percent of reported cases have been among unvaccinated residents, according to county data.

A total of 53 people have died from COVID-19 in Clallam County since the pandemic began. Sixteen people have died in Jefferson County.

Neither county reported a new death on Wednesday.

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