Gamma variant infections increasing statewide

The Gamma variant — also known as the Brazilian variant — of the unique coronavirus is making inroads into Washington state.

The variant “is really increasing in Washington state,” said Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County public health officer.

It is now at about 14 percent of those infected with COVID-19, he said Sunday.

That’s higher than in some other states, Locke said, adding it is particularly worrisome for those who have not been vaccinated.

“It’s a nastier bug” than other variants, he said. “It’s more likely to make people sick enough to be hospitalized.

“It’s more contagious, and it makes you sicker.”

That means “the risk is going up in Washington state.”

Although he won’t have updated figures until Monday, Locke said Sunday that the Jefferson County case rate, although low compared to many other areas, is elevated from what it has been.

“It is the new normal,” he said. “It’s great that people who are vaccinated can start returning to normal activities, but for people who are not, it is not a safe thing to do — and a lot of them don’t believe us when we tell them that.”

Vaccination not only protects the person who gets immunized but also helps to protect children too young to get the vaccine as well as those who may have been vaccinated but who are immunocompromised, he pointed out.

Both Clallam and Jefferson counties have pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinics scheduled this week in addition to the vaccinations offered at pharmacies and medical clinics.

Pop-up clinics do not require appointments; walk-in patients are readily accepted.

Washington residents 16 and older who have been vaccinated with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccination at any time before 11:59 p.m. on the Sunday before a drawing will be automatically entered into statewide giveaway lottery drawings each Tuesday.

That excludes employees of the state Lottery Commission or state Department of Health and their families as well as anyone who is incarcerated.

Prizes include cash awards — $250,000 awards on the next two Tuesdays and a $1 million jackpot on July 13 — as well as tuition money, airline and game tickets, and tech gifts like game consoles and smart speakers.

It isn’t necessary to do anything to enter. All those who have been vaccinated are automatically entered into a database.

Residents can walk into the Jefferson Healthcare Express Clinic every day from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. to receive a Johnson & Johnson vaccine shot, or they can schedule with a primary care provider to receive Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson, said Amy Yaley, hospital spokesperson.

Jefferson County has a pop-up clinic scheduled from 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m. on Wednesday at the Tri-Area Food Bank, at 760 Chimacum Road, with Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine available.

Walk-ins will be accepted or appointments can be made at tinyurl.com/TriAreaAppointments.

The Jefferson County Public Health and the Department of Emergency Management will conduct vaccination clinics on Friday and Saturday.

The Friday clinic will be from 3-7 p.m. in the parking lot at Sunrise Coffee, 308 10th St., Port Townsend. The Saturday clinic will be from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Port Townsend Farmers Market on Tyler Street.

Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines will be available. It is necessary to be 18 or older to receive either vaccine.

To make an appointment, go to prepmod.doh.wa.gov//appointment/en/reg/9069590321 or call 360-344-9791. Walk-ins are welcome.

Vaccinations at pharmacies in Jefferson County can be found at co.jefferson.wa.us/1429/COVID-19.

Clallam County has pop-up clinics scheduled for Wednesday through Saturday this week.

On Wednesday and Friday, officials will be offering Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccines from 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. at the Port Angeles Food Bank, 632 N. Oakridge Drive, according to the clinic calendar.

On Thursday, Clallam County officials will have a pop-up clinic from 2-5 p.m. at Alder Grove Mobile Home Park, 1886 Calawah Way in Forks, offering Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer’s vaccine.

The Saturday pop-up clinic will be at the Port Angeles Lefties game from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Civic Field, offering Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer vaccines.

The full calendar for pop-up clinics in Clallam County can be viewed at tinyurl.com/PDN-ClallamPopUps.

Some of the larger grocery stores such as Walmart, Safeway and QFC receive regular shipments of COVID-19 vaccines.

Appointments can be made on their websites when available: Walmart, Walmart.com/covidvaccine; Safeway, safeway.com/vaccinations/home; QFC, qfc.com/rx/covid-eligibility.

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.

The latest data shows that 73.4 percent of Jefferson County residents 16 and older have initiated vaccinations, with 70.1 percent of them fully vaccinated, while 66.3 percent of the total population has started vaccinations, and 63.1 percent are fully vaccinated, according to the state’s dashboard.

Clallam County has vaccinated 63.4 percent of residents 16 and older with at least one dose, with 58.9 percent of them fully vaccinated, while 54.8 percent of the total population has begun vaccinations and 50.6 percent fully vaccinated, according to the state’s dashboard.

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