About half of the new COVID-19 infections confirmed in Clallam County in the past week are suspected to have been caused by the more contagious and severe U.K. variant, said Dr. Allison Berry, Clallam County health officer.
No cases in Jefferson County seen so far are suspected to be caused by a variant, according to Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer.
Clallam County confirmed nine new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, one of which is the first confirmed in the West End since February, while Jefferson County confirmed three new cases.
Jefferson County has confirmed eight cases so far in April, about 2.26 percent of the 354 cases in the past year, according to county Public Health data.
Clallam County has confirmed 40 cases of COVID-19 so far this month, about 3.62 percent of the 1,105 cases during the past year, according to county data.
Berry urged people to continue to wear face masks, practice social distancing, get vaccinated as soon as they’re eligible and avoid gathering and travel if the North Olympic Peninsula is going to avoid a severe fourth wave of infections.
“The key thing to know about variants — besides the fact that they’re here now — is that they really take advantage of protocol breakdowns,” she said.
“Our safety measures work against the variants, but if you let down your guard when you’re gathering indoors, not wearing masks — all those kind of things — if you do any of those things, the variants will take advantage of that and spread more quickly.”
She said residents should examine their interactions with others, especially in work places, schools and sports.
“Are you putting distance between yourself and others? Are you wearing a mask? Are you being sure to stay home if you’re sick or if you’ve been exposed?”
If anyone is sick at all, they should get tested for COVID-19 right away, so officials can work and support them if they do have COVID, Berry said.
“People can see the finish line off in the distance, and they’re acting like they’ve already crossed the finish line and we haven’t,” Locke said.
“If people continue to behave like the pandemic is over, what they’re going to end up doing is extending it by a number of months and bringing on a fourth wave that would require us to roll back a lot of the reopening phase.”
The spread of variants is such that larger counties such as King, Pierce and possibly Kitsap are under consideration for being rolled back to Phase 2 after reevaluation on Monday, Locke said.
A new vaccination clinic in South Jefferson County by the Tri-Area Pharmacy and Jefferson County Department of Emergency Management is scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at Quilcene High School using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. A total of 150 doses are available.
To schedule an appointment, go to bit.ly/quilcenevax or call 360-344-9791.
Clallam and Jefferson counties are vaccinating people in tiers 1B3 and 1B4, which include restaurant, construction, agriculture and other congregate workers, as well as people 60 and older. It also covers people with chronic medical conditions.
The conditions listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are published at tinyurl.com/PDN-ChronicConditions.
Locke and Berry said anyone with a chronic medical condition is probably eligible now.
Those previously eligible for vaccinations remain eligible for shots.
Appointments for Saturday’s clinic at Port Angeles High School — there will not be a clinic Sunday due to lack of appointment demand — can be made at vaccine.clallam.net/register or by calling 360-417-2430.
The Jamestown S’Klallam Clinic is not providing first-dose vaccinations this week.
Appointments for Jefferson Healthcare’s clinic can be made at jeffersonhealthcare.org/covid-19-vaccine.
Forty-two COVID-19 cases were active as of Wednesday in Clallam County. Jefferson County had nine active cases.
Jefferson County is in the state’s low-risk category with a case rate of about 22 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Saturday, while Clallam County is in the state’s moderate-risk category with a case rate of 66 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior to Wednesday.