Health officers: Caution still needed as vaccines delivered

As vaccination efforts of the 1B1 group continued Tuesday, North Olympic Peninsula health officers urged residents to continue to follow COVID-19 prevention protocols, as both counties continue to have case rates above 100 per 100,000 population.

Clallam County’s case rate is 155 per 100,000 for the past two weeks as of Tuesday, and Jefferson County’s case rate is about 116 cases per 100,000 as of Saturday, according to local health officers.

Clallam County confirmed four new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, while Jefferson County confirmed one additional case, according to county public health data.

While Gov. Jay Inslee has expanded the 1B1 category to include people older than 65 and people older than 50 who live in multigenerational households, Clallam County has limited vaccine to people 70 and older, and Jefferson County has limited it to people 80 and older due to the small amount of vaccine available on the North Olympic Peninsula.

An additional hurdle for vaccines on the peninsula is a reduced amount of it delivered recently due to the state funneling more toward areas like King County that are still working through the 1A group.

It’s expected to take two to three weeks before shipments stabilize and more vaccination clinics can be planned, said Dr. Allison Berry, Clallam County health officer.

Joe Biden’s inauguration as President today will mark the start of a new shift in federal priorities with regard to vaccine distribution, said Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer.

As of Tuesday morning, Jefferson County had vaccinated 2,198 residents for COVID-19, with more than 250 appointments scheduled for Jefferson Healthcare’s drive-up vaccination clinic, Locke said during his morning briefing with the Board of Jefferson County Commissioners.

Jefferson Healthcare began the vaccinations Monday. Appointments can be made at https://jeffersonhealthcare.org/covid-19-vaccine.

Locke said 37 percent of Jefferson County’s population is older than 65, equating to more than 11,000 people, and he urged residents to continue social distancing, mask wearing and to wash their hands, so case numbers don’t spike.

“The risk of exposure is as high as it’s ever been,” Locke said. “People need to keep their guard up.”

The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe conducted another vaccination clinic in Sequim on Tuesday, with additional ones planned for Thursday and Saturday, according to the tribe’s website.

The tribe’s clinics so far have administered more than 500 doses a day, Berry said.

The tribe said they’ve seen and heard comments about the process so far and hope to have an online signup system up and running, similar to Clallam County’s, for registration by Saturday’s vaccination date, or the following Tuesday, Jan. 26. Organizers plan to set up a phone line for those without the internet, too.

Until the system is up, vaccination times remain from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. for up to 600 vaccinations Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays in Carrie Blake Park, 202 N. Blake Ave. Participants register at the Trinity United Methodist Church, 100 S. Blake Ave.

For updates, check jamestownhealth.org or call 360-683-5900.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 5,450 were reported to have been given the vaccine in Clallam County, according to Clallam County Public Health’s website.

More than 23,000 people are older than 65 in Clallam County, and Berry expects it will take all of February for the county to work through the 1B1 group, she said.

Berry urged residents to remain patient and continue to be on their guard against COVID-19, since it won’t be difficult for cases to spike.

“We had a small peak from New Year’s, and if we keep distancing, keep being thoughtful about transmission, we can start to see (transmission) go down,” she said. “Our success is still quite tenuous.

“If we continue to vaccinate at the rate that we are, we should start to see virus decrease in spring and really see it decrease in summer. So, it’s not much longer, but we do have to hold a bit longer so we can continue to see the kind of successes we’re seeing here.”

So far this month, Clallam County has confirmed 126 cases, about 14 percent of the 874 it has confirmed since March, according to Clallam County Public Health data.

Jefferson County has confirmed 53 cases of COVID-19, about 19.1 percent of the 273 it has confirmed since March, according to Jefferson County Public Health data.

Fifty-two COVID-19 cases were active as of Tuesday in Clallam County, with two people hospitalized.

Jefferson County had 13 active cases.

The test positivity on the Peninsula — the percentage of tests returned positive — was 6.5 percent in Clallam County for Jan. 2-16, and 3.23 percent in Jefferson County for Jan. 11-17.

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