COVID outbreaks expected among unvaccinated this summer

Statewide COVID-19 case rates are falling, but outbreaks among the unvaccinated population are expected to continue into the summer, local health officers said Monday.

Counties with high vaccination levels are either seeing significant decreases in virus transmission or transmission is staying low, while largely unvaccinated counties, such as Spokane, continue to have high case rates, said Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer.

Locke equated the current case trends to two separate pandemics: one of vaccinated residents who have decreasing death and case rates, while unvaccinated populations are seeing case rates similar to what they were in January, he told the three county commissioners Monday.

Locke expects cases to continue to decline over the next few weeks as people continue to spend more time outside in the nicer weather.

“It’s not favorable for virus transmission,” he said.

Port Townsend School District reported its first COVID-19 case in a high school student. However, because of the transmission-prevention policies and a high level of vaccination among students and staff, Locke said he doesn’t expect any significant impact and that the case won’t affect the high school graduation Friday unless a student is in quarantine on an individual basis.

The COVID-19 outbreak at a Clallam County long-term care facility has grown to nine total cases, with seven residents and two staff members having contracted the novel coronavirus, said Dr. Allison Berry, Clallam County health officer.

Two of the residents are in the Intensive Care Unit, but their conditions are starting to show improvement, Berry said.

The rest are doing well, she added.

The majority of the residents at the long-term care facility are vaccinated, but due to some of the residents’ ages and other factors, such as having a suppressed immune system, their vaccines do not have high levels of efficacy, Berry has said.

Berry expects to continue to see outbreaks among unvaccinated residents.

“The size of those outbreaks will be determined by how big those gatherings are and what percentage of our population are vaccinated,” she said. “At this level of vaccination, we should be able to limit transmission to these isolated outbreaks or unfortunately these rare instances where we see transmission in very high-risk populations.

“We do anticipate that we’re going to continue to see cases and isolated outbreaks among unvaccinated people.”

Vaccination clinics on the North Olympic Peninsula can be found at peninsuladailynews.com/news/vaccination-clinics-set-this-week-as-lottery-begins.

The state has a vaccination locator at vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov, which allows users to see where appointments are available and which vaccine will be used.

While all state residents 12 and older are eligible to be vaccinated, anyone younger than 18 can receive only Pfizer’s vaccine.

Clallam County confirmed nine new COVID-19 cases over the weekend. Sixteen have been confirmed in June so far, about 1.17 percent of 1,367 cases reported since the pandemic began, according to county data.

Jefferson County confirmed four cases over the weekend. Five have been confirmed in June, about 1.18 percent of the 422 total cases since the pandemic began, according to county data.

Clallam County had two patients hospitalized for COVID-19 in the Intensive Care Unit on Monday. Jefferson County had one resident hospitalized.

Twenty-six COVID-19 cases were active in Clallam County on Monday, while Jefferson County had six active cases.

Clallam County is in the state’s moderate-risk category with a case rate of 36 per 100,000 population for the past two weeks as of Monday, while Jefferson County is in the state’s low-risk category with a case rate of 15.67 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Monday.

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