COVID-19 case rates hitting plateau

COVID-19 case rates continue to fall on the North Olympic Peninsula, and medical experts think it’s due in part to vaccination rates and the same dominant strain.

“We think a lot of it is driven by the fact that we haven’t seen a new variant in a while,” said Dr. Allison Berry, the health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties.

“B.A.5 is still dominating transmission. In addition to a large number of our population being vaccinated, you are unlikely to get infected with the same variant that you have already had.”

Berry said COVID-19 case numbers in Jefferson County seem to have plateaued. In general, there seems to be a general downward trend, she said.

Jefferson County recorded 57 new cases of COVID-19 in the past week, bringing its total to 5,578 cases since the pandemic began. The county reported a case rate of 448 per 100,000 population with one person hospitalized at Jefferson Healthcare.

There were no new deaths in the past week from COVID-19, keeping the total number of Jefferson County deaths at 30.

“Clallam County numbers are also going down, though we are still at high rates of transmission,” Berry said. “The trajectory is moving in a good direction.”

Clallam County recorded 114 new cases of COVID-19 in the past week, bringing its total to 15,397 since the pandemic began.

The county recorded a case rate of 363 per 100,000 population with one person hospitalized at Olympic Medical Center, and no new deaths from the virus, which has claimed 121 residents.

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.

“We don’t know what is down the road in terms of future variants, but if we continue to see B.A.5 dominance, we are unlikely to see a significant surge again until we see a new variant,” Berry said.

Flu vaccine

Berry and other health officials are urging the public to get a flu vaccine this fall as well as the COVID-19 booster that targets the omicron variant of the virus.

“There’s still work going into a combined flu and COVID-19 shot,” Berry said. “Right now what we are likely to see being distributed from the state will be separate vaccines, which does mean you’re going to need two shots this fall, likely the omicron booster, which will be available mid-September, and a separate flu vaccine, which will be around about the same time,” Berry said.

The omicron booster will be available for those 18 and older, and the Food and Drug Administration is looking at vaccines that would be available for those 12 and older.

In the meantime, schools will continue to encourage masking as well as make testing kits available for families heading into and throughout the school year.

“All of our schools will still have testing available for students and staff,” Berry said. “Some are still offering on-site testing while others are distributing testing kits.”

The federal government announced it will be ending its free testing program on Sept. 2. The state still plans to distribute free tests, but it is unknown how long that program will last, Berry said.