COVID case slide tenuous

Health officer: ‘This is still a very high plateau’

Both Clallam and Jefferson counties are seeing COVID-19 case rates plateau at higher rates than what health officials believe is safe for the community.

While community transmission of COVID-19 is not as widespread as seen at some points last month, case rates are still at a very high level and have the potential to drastically spike again if precautions aren’t followed, said Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for both counties, on Tuesday.

Clallam County’s case rate has decreased slightly, falling to 570 cases per 100,000 population for the past two weeks as of Tuesday. On Monday, the county recorded 586 cases per 100,000, according to county public health data.

Jefferson County, which records its case rate weekly, on Monday recorded a rate of 275.86 cases per 100,000 for the past two weeks as of Saturday, which was the exact same as the week before.

“This is still a very high plateau,” Berry said.

“We’re very happy to have seen case numbers decrease to the point that our health care system is not overrun. That’s very hopeful.

“But, when we have this level of transmission, it’s still quite possible to see dangerous surges in infection that can lead to hospitalization and death.”

She added that, at the present rate of infection, “we also see more outbreaks that can shut down businesses, can affect schools.

“Really the best way to avoid school-related outbreaks beyond all the protocols that the schools are following is to reduce community transmission,” Berry said.

On Tuesday, Clallam County confirmed 28 new cases of COVID-19, raising its total to 4,380 cases since the pandemic began, public health data said.

Jefferson County confirmed seven new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, raising its total to 1,026 cases since the pandemic began, according to public health data.

One of the new cases in Jefferson County is a student connected to a cluster of cases among Brinnon students.

Twelve Brinnon students and four staff members are sick with COVID-19, Berry said. Nine are believed to have been contracted through school activities, she said.

The cluster was not considered an outbreak as of Tuesday, as the students and staff have a lot of overlap with friend and family interactions outside of school, and the school district has been maintaining strict COVID-19 prevention protocols, Berry said.

The students in the K-8 school are too young to be vaccinated, she said.

Transmission of the novel coronavirus is primarily driven by out-of-county and out-of-state travel in Jefferson County and the small cluster in Brinnon, Berry said.

In Clallam County, new cases are primarily in the West End. The Clallam Bay Corrections Center outbreak had confirmed a total of 162 cases as of Sept. 25.

Berry is working with her team to set up targeted testing sites to catch more of the COVID-19 cases and will be visiting the prison this week to evaluate the prevention protocols.

Berry continues to urge residents to get vaccinated as soon as possible and to sign up for upcoming booster dose clinics, if they are eligible.

At least six months after completing the primary Pfizer vaccine series, people 65 and older, those 18 and older living in a long-term care setting, and those 50 to 64 with underlying medical conditions or at increased risk of social inequities are eligible to receive a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine, officials said.

Additionally, people ages 18-49 with underlying medical conditions and those 18-64 who are at higher risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of their occupational or institutional setting — and who completed a Pfizer vaccine series at least six months ago — may receive a Pfizer booster dose, officials said.

Eligible Jefferson County residents can sign up to receive a booster shot through the Jefferson County Public Health website, or by calling 360-344-9791.

The Pfizer booster vaccination clinics will be conducted from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on three consecutive Saturdays in October. The Chimacum and Port Townsend clinics are full and have a waiting list as of Tuesday.

They are:

• Saturday, Oct. 9 — Chimacum School District multi-purpose building, 91 W. Valley Road.

• Oct. 16 — Blue Heron Middle School, 3939 San Juan Ave., Port Townsend.

• Oct. 23 — Quilcene School, 294715 U.S. Highway 101, Quilcene.

Vaccination cards should be taken to appointments.

Clallam County emergency management and public health departments have a booster dose clinic scheduled for Oct. 16 that still has appointments available, Berry said.

The clinics will be at Port Angeles High School. Signups will be on the Clallam County website. Those without internet access can call the county Department of Emergency Management at 360-417-2430 for assistance.