COVID-19 cases are rising again both state and nationwide, and North Olympic Peninsula health officers are urging residents to remain cautious in order to limit the impact of a fourth wave of infections.
If people are not cautious and the state and nation see a significant surge of cases, it could prolong the end of the pandemic, said Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer.
While the Peninsula has so far been spared from a significant rise in cases, the state has seen a 29 percent increase during the past two weeks, and that can spread onto the Peninsula, Locke said during his March 29 briefing with the Board of Jefferson County commissioners.
How the current rise is managed will be crucial to the pandemic response, he said.
“The real test is how much can we flatten this,” Locke said. “We are in a lull in the storm in Jefferson County right now.
“The storm is not over.”
The nation is in a race against more contagious variant strains of COVID-19 and getting people vaccinated, Locke said.
“It sounds melodramatic, but it’s the truth,” he said.
Locke’s concerns are shared by Clallam County Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry, who also raised concerns that some of the variants are appearing to cause more severe illness in younger people.
“In other states, we’re seeing rises in hospitalizations of otherwise healthy young people,” Berry said. “I think it’s really important for all of us, even those of us who aren’t used to thinking of COVID as an infection that could hurt us, to be particularly thoughtful in the coming months.”
Berry urges residents to get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible and can get an appointment, and between now and then, to limit gatherings, continue to wear a mask and limit travel.
“If we do all those things, especially in Clallam, we can get through this without having a significant peak like much of the rest of the country is starting to experience,” she said. “If we don’t — if we let our guard down and travel and gather indoors — we’ll have a significant rise in cases as well, and unfortunately that would happen before we’ve really fully vaccinated folks with chronic conditions.”
Both counties are preparing for the addition of the next phase of vaccinations, which includes congregate workers such as restaurant and construction workers, as well as people with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, lung disease and chemotherapy patients, Locke said.
The conditions listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is published at tinyurl.com/PDN-ChronicConditions. However, Locke said, “If you have a chronic medical problem, you’re probably on that list.”
Those previously eligible for vaccinations under previous phases remain eligible for shots.
Appointments for the Jamestown Sequim Clinics on Thursday for Clallam residents 18 and older were still available as of 4 p.m. Monday. As a sovereign nation, Jamestown can vaccinate outside of the state’s priority list; appointments can be made at vaccine.clallam.net/register or by phone at 360-417-2430.
Clallam County confirmed three new COVID-19 cases among children on Monday stemming from a birthday party that has led to five cases, Berry said.
Jefferson County did not report any new cases Monday.
Clallam County has confirmed 55 cases of COVID-19 so far this month, about 5.21 percent of the 1,056 cases confirmed during the past year, according to county data.
Jefferson County has confirmed eight cases this month, about 2.33 percent of the 344 cases confirmed in the past year, according to county Public Health data.
Thirteen COVID-19 cases were active as of Monday in Clallam County. Jefferson County had one active case.
Jefferson County is in the state’s low-risk category with a case rate of about 22 per 100,000 population for the two weeks prior as of Saturday, while Clallam County is in the state’s moderate-risk category with a case rate of 33 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior to Monday.