Health officials urge caution over Thanksgiving holiday

No new cases reported in long-term care facilities on Peninsula

As residents gather today to celebrate Thanksgiving, public health officials continue to urge caution.

The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over. Officials expect a rise in case numbers after holiday gatherings, but if all take care, that rise is likely to be short-lived on the North Olympic Peninsula, said Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Jefferson and Clallam counties.

When residents gather, it’s recommended that they all be vaccinated or have a rapid antigen COVID-19 test before attending, she said.

“We know many folks will be celebrating and I think this year is different than last in that there are safe ways to have a Thanksgiving celebration,” Berry said.

“We have a lot more tools this year than we did last year and that is truly something to be grateful for.

“We are in a better spot than we were in a year ago.”

Officials are concerned about a potential rise in COVID-19 cases stemming from Thanksgiving gatherings, but if people are cautious, the increase on the Peninsula could just be a temporary hike rather than a sustained surge in new cases, Berry said.

Berry expects that next year, Thanksgiving gatherings will be much safer.

“I do think by this time next year we will be in a dramatically better place, and it is really the actions of our citizens who have made tough decisions to follow COVID protocols — to get vaccinated — and it’s the incredible work of so many in our community and in the country who have helped us reach this point,” Berry said.

“We have had so many scientific discoveries that have gotten us here and we’ve had so many people come together to make sure that those discoveries were made available for the rest of us. I’m truly grateful for that.”

Public health officials continue to monitor two long-term care facility outbreaks on the Peninsula, one in Clallam County and one in a Jefferson County facility.

Neither facility had new cases confirmed on Wednesday. The Jefferson County outbreak has had a total of 15 cases so far, with 13 residents and two staff members infected, while Clallam County’s outbreak has had 42 cases so far, Berry said.

Both outbreaks are believed to have originated from unvaccinated staff members who were exempted from the state’s vaccination mandate, Berry has said.

Officials were able to offer monoclonal antibody treatments to those who wanted/agreed to have them, Berry said.

Residents at those facilities who received the antibody treatment and/or had received a booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccine have largely had asymptomatic or very mild cases of COVID-19, while those who hadn’t are having more severe cases of infection, Berry said.

The Clallam County facility did have a delay in administering monoclonal antibodies at the start, which is thought to have contributed to the faster transmission early, Berry said.

The antibody treatment helps reduce the possibility of severe COVID-19 in patients within five to 10 days of them developing symptoms.

The treatment also is used for high-risk people who were exposed to a case of COVID-19. It can help prevent them from contracting the infection and reduces the possibility of a severe illness if they do get sick, Berry said.

Part of the delay is attributed to being short-staffed at the facility, which is unfortunately common at long-term care facilities, Berry said.

New cases

COVID-19 numbers will not be updated from today until Monday due to the holiday, Berry said, although she will be able to speak about outbreaks on Friday.

On Wednesday, Clallam County added five new cases of COVID-19. The county has confirmed a total of 5,218 cases since the start of the pandemic, county health data said.

Jefferson County added six new cases Wednesday. The county has confirmed a total of 1,282 cases since the pandemic began, according to county public health data.

Clallam County had a case rate of 253 per 100,000 population for the past two weeks as of Wednesday, according to county public health data.

In Jefferson County, health officials recorded a case rate of 192.61 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Nov. 17. Prior to that, the county had a case rate of 201.93 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Nov. 10.

Neither country recorded a new death on Wednesday. Jefferson County has had 18 residents die from COVID-19, while Clallam County has had 69 since the pandemic started.