COVID case rates on Peninsula, statewide continue to plateau

Counties both preparing for vaccine clinics for kids 5-11

COVID-19 case rates on the North Olympic Peninsula and for the state are continuing to plateau, raising concerns for the upcoming holiday season as people prepare to travel and gather, health officials said.

“It would be a lot safer to go into the holidays with lower numbers,” said Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Jefferson and Clallam counties, during her Monday briefing with the Board of Jefferson County Commissioners. “I would really encourage folks to exercise caution over the next few weeks.”

Clallam County recorded 309 cases per 100,000 population for the past two weeks as of Monday, staying where it has been since last week, according to public health data.

Jefferson County’s case rate decreased slightly to 250.78 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Oct. 27. Before that, the case rate was 253.92 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Oct. 20, according to public health data.

The state is at a plateau in the high 300s per 100,000 but is starting to see an “early rise,” Berry said.

Ideally, Berry would like to see the Peninsula in case rates in the moderate range — fewer than 75 per 100,000 for two weeks — before the holidays, but it’s unlikely the rates will drop that low at this point, she said.

Berry highly recommended people who are gathering to be vaccinated and gather with other fully vaccinated people. When traveling by plane, where a good mask such as a surgical or KN95, and wash hands often, she said.

“There’s no 100 percent safe in a pandemic, but it’s really quite safe for fully vaccinated family members to gather,” Berry said.

The Peninsula continues to be under Berry’s mandate that requires bars and restaurants to only serve fully vaccinated people indoors, and she said it has helped reduce transmission.

In recent weeks, a restaurant worker in Jefferson County unknowingly worked for three days at a restaurant while infected with COVID-19 during their infectious period, including serving an indoor wedding of 120 people, Berry said.

Everyone the person served was confirmed to be vaccinated, and no one was infected by the worker, Berry said.

Regarding the wedding, if all attendees had been unvaccinated, there could’ve been an outbreak upwards of 60 cases, with possible hospitalizations and deaths stemming from the one case with the worker, but Berry said that didn’t happen because of the mandate and other prevention protocols.

Clallam County added 41 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday from Saturday and Sunday, raising its total to 4,914 since the pandemic began, according to county public health data.

Jefferson County confirmed 16 new cases between Saturday and Sunday, raising its total to 1,164 since the pandemic began, according to county public health data.

In regard to vaccinations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Western States Advisory Group are expect to recommend Pfizer’s vaccine for use in children 5 to 11 years old in the next few days, and that would allow medical providers to begin administering the vaccine to the age group.

Jefferson County Emergency Management and Jefferson County Public Health are planning a mass vaccination clinic potentially during the morning of Nov. 6, with more information to be announced in the next few days, Berry said.

In Clallam County, Olympic Medical Center will be taking the lead on administration of the children’s vaccine doses. However, specific plans are still being developed and will be announced soon, OMC spokesperson Bobby Beeman said.

There may be a delay in the availability of the children’s doses of Pfizer’s vaccine on the Peninsula, as it’s unknown how much the state will allocate to the two counties during the first week they become available, but shortages should be fixed in the second week, Berry said.

The new doses for children are one-third of the dose of the current vaccinations given to teens and adults, but they are being produced in a different vial in order to reduce the potential for human error when administering the vaccines and so kids receive the correct dosage, Berry said.