COVID-19 spike attributed to holidays, events

COVID-19 cases climbed on the North Olympic Peninsula last week and over the weekend, with the largest increase in Clallam County.

That increase included 297 newly reported cases since Dec. 21, with a total of 5,994 cases in Clallam County since the pandemic began. The case rate has doubled to 641 per 100,000 population in the past 14 days.

Jefferson County had an increase of 70 cases since Tuesday and now totals 1,469 cases with a rate of 214 per 100,000, the same rate it had following the Thanksgiving holiday.

Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties, attributed the rise to holiday gatherings as well as the increasing spread of the omicron variant nationwide.

“We are certainly seeing a number of our cases that we’ve sequenced coming back as omicron,” Berry said.

The Clallam County Health Department had confirmed at least 13 cases of omicron have been confirmed by 4 p.m. Monday, four stemming from a high school wrestling tournament that took place at the start of December and the rest from unrelated outbreaks.

“We send a random sample of our cases for sequencing as well as high-risk cases from outbreaks,” Berry said. “All 13 that we sent came back omicron.”

Omicron, considered to be more contagious than the delta variant that comprised the majority of cases earlier this year, has become the dominant variant in the United States.

“We’re just seeing the power of the infectiousness of omicron and the effect of so many of us gathering over the holidays,” Berry said.

It is now the dominant variant in King County, it was reported on Christmas Eve.

Dr. John Lynch, Harborview Medical Center’s medical director for infection prevention and control, said in a statement that the super-infectious omicron variant would soon overtake delta throughout the rest of the state.

An additional person has been hospitalized on the Peninsula since last Tuesday. The person, who is in Jefferson County, brings that county’s total hospitalization to three. Clallam County has 10 in a hospital, the same number as was reported last Tuesday.

“I know the ER was very busy through the holiday weekend,” Berry said.

No additional deaths were reported Monday in either Clallam or Jefferson counties. Clallam has reported 80 deaths while Jefferson has reported 20.

Prior to the holiday weekend, Berry stressed the importance of getting vaccinated and boosted in order to slow the spread of the omicron variant.

About 65 percent of Clallam County and 73 percent of Jefferson County are fully vaccinated.

Jefferson County Public Health will host two vaccination clinics in the new year. The first will be at Chimacum High School on Jan. 8 and the second at Quilcene High School on Jan. 15.

The Jan. 8 clinic will offer an opportunity for children ages 5-11 to get their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine from 10 a.m.-noon and in the later afternoon. Those 18 and older can receive a Moderna first, second or a booster shot from 1-4 p.m.

Appointments can be made online at Appointment or by calling 360-344-9791.

The Jan. 15 clinic also will primarily focus on 5- to 11-year-old children getting first and second Pfizer doses from 10 a.m.-noon. Then, from 12:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m., those 18 and older can receive the Moderna vaccine, either the first or second dose. Folks will need to bring their proof-of-vaccination cards in order to receive their second shot or their booster.

Appointments can be made online or by phone.