Deaths from virus both elderly women with health conditions

A Clallam County woman in her 90s and a Jefferson County woman in her 80s died from COVID-19 over the weekend.

Dr. Allison Berry, the health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties, said both women were vaccinated but had chronic health conditions, and neither had received a recent booster dose of a vaccine.

The new deaths brought Clallam County’s total from the virus to 125 and Jefferson County’s to 32.

Both counties have seen decreases in COVID-19 case rates, Berry said.

Clallam County remains in the moderate-risk category with a case rate of 135 per 100,000 population. The county added 38 cases since last week, bringing its total since the pandemic began to 15,735.

Jefferson County remained in the high-risk category even though the rate dropped significantly from 488 cases per 100,000 population to 355 per 100,000. The county added 47 cases, bringing its total since the pandemic began to 6,074.

Case rates are a reflection of cases reported during a two-week period. They are computed using a formula based on 100,000 population even for counties that do not have 100,000 people living in them.

“Cases are going down in Jefferson and our percent positivity rate is holding steady, so we think it’s a real drop,” Berry said. “Mostly it has to do with the outbreaks in schools coming to a close. We had a lot of transmissions related to schools, but thankfully the schools worked really hard to reduce transmission quickly, so that situation has improved quite a bit.”

Berry has been providing weekly COVID-19 updates to the Board of Jefferson County Commissioners, but beginning in November, those updates will be moved to a monthly basis.

“It is a strange time for COVID-19 right now on a national scale,” Berry said. “National ascertainment rate is down to 4 percent, so we’re just getting the tip of the iceberg in terms of how many cases of COVID-19 are out there.”

Berry said there is still widespread transmission statewide but not as much severe illness except for those who are still not vaccinated or people who haven’t received their boosters.

“We are not seeing a rise in severe disease at this point,” Berry said. “It is still too early to tell what the effect will be of the Bivalent vaccine on transmission, but we are hopeful it will reduce transmission, but we haven’t seen enough uptake yet. We definitely encourage more folks to go out and get vaccinated. It is really important to reduce transmission as we move into the fall.”

The Bivalent vaccines, which specifically target the omicron variant, are now available for children 5 to 11 years old following approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week.

The vaccine, along with flu shots, are available at most pharmacies in both counties as well as at Jefferson Healthcare and Olympic Medical Center clinics.

Despite the lifting of the statewide emergency order on Oct. 31, medical facilities will still require patients and visitors to wear masks.

Berry and other health officials continue to recommend masking when indoors when there are large groups of people and poor ventilation, especially as cold and flu season approaches.