COVID-19 hospitalizations growing on Olympic Peninsula

A growing number of hospitalizations from COVID-19 on the North Olympic Peninsula is causing concern for the region’s health officer, as the hospitals could be significantly strained again if people aren’t cautious.

As of Wednesday, 10 Clallam County residents were hospitalized for COVID-19, while four residents were hospitalized in Jefferson County, said Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Jefferson and Clallam counties.

“To have 10 folks hospitalized in Clallam County is a lot and presents a significant surge on our already-packed hospital system,” Berry said. “It’s certainly concerning.

“I think they highlight how easy it is to surge to the point of overwhelming our hospitals again. I really encourage folks to be cautious with COVID-19 safety and encourage everyone who hasn’t to get vaccinated.

“I’m very worried that we’re going to progress to a point of significantly straining our hospitals again.”

Clallam County added 24 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, raising its total to 4,835 since the pandemic began, according to county public health data.

Jefferson County confirmed nine more cases on Wednesday, raising its total to 1,142 since the pandemic began, according to county public health data.

New cases on the Peninsula are being driven by workplace exposures in both counties and clusters — groups of cases in a community that isn’t confirmed to be an outbreak — in two churches in Clallam, Berry said.

“The most consistent problem in Clallam County that we’re facing is that while the majority of our community is on board with COVID protocols, there is a minority of folks who are not participating in vaccination or masking or distancing,” Berry said. “That is playing out in our case numbers at this point.”

Berry and her teams are working to dispel misinformation and increase access to correct information, as well as continuing to urge residents to get vaccinated, continue to wear face masks and social distance.

COVID-19 case rates continue to remain high in both counties.

Clallam County recorded a rate of 329 cases per 100,000 population for the past two weeks as of Wednesday, staying in the low 300s range it has been at this week, according to public health data.

Jefferson County’s case rate increased slightly to 253.92 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Oct. 20. Before that, the case rate was 156.74 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Oct. 13, according to public health data.

“We adjust to these high numbers and I hear from folks that ‘things are better now’ and they’re not,” Berry said. “They’re better than they were, but they’re still very serious and with these high rates of transmission, it is still very easy for us to see a significant surge again if we’re not cautious.”

Late Tuesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s advisory committee recommended that Pfizer’s vaccine be approved for 5- to 11-year-olds, and now health officials waiting on the FDA’s and then the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) approval, which would allow the vaccine to be administered, Berry said.

The FDA and CDC approval is expected either late this week or early next week, Berry said.

Once approved, both counties are organizing vaccination clinics for kids of that age group.

According to the latest data from the state Department of Health, 80.5 percent of the population 12 and older in Jefferson County have started vaccinations, with 76.8 percent fully vaccinated.

Of the entire population, 74 percent have begun vaccination and 70.7 percent are fully vaccinated, according to the state’s dashboard.

In Clallam County, 74.3 percent of the population 12 and older have started vaccinations, with 69.7 percent fully vaccinated.

Of the total population, 66 percent have begun vaccinations, with 61.9 percent fully vaccinated, according to the state’s dashboard.

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