New Clallam COVID outbreak has 13 positives

A new outbreak with more than a dozen positives in Clallam County has been traced to a church while Jefferson County returned to the state’s moderate-risk category for COVID-19 on Monday after eight new COVID-19 cases were confirmed over the weekend.

The moderate-risk category encompasses counties that have case rates exceeding 25 per 100,000 population over two weeks. Both Jefferson and Clallam counties are in the category.

Jefferson County’s case rate jumped from 15.67 per 100,000 from May 23 to June 5 to 56.4 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Saturday. A total of 18 cases have been confirmed in the past two weeks, said Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer.

The rise stems from a more contagious Alpha variant spreading among unvaccinated residents in the county who continue to gather, Locke said.

“It’s the pattern we’re seeing elsewhere, people who are unvaccinated — and especially people who are unvaccinated and starting to cluster again in social groups — have started to move beyond the COVID restrictions, and while we understand why people want to do that, it’s only safe if you’re fully vaccinated,” he said.

“It’s not a surprising thing, unfortunately, when we see unvaccinated people getting together in indoor social settings. It’s really an opportunity for the virus to spread.”

Three people were hospitalized for COVID-19 over the weekend in Jefferson County, and one was discharged by Monday. One remained at Jefferson Healthcare and the third was being transferred to a Seattle hospital, Locke said.

Patient statuses, if transferred out of county, are not easily tracked, Locke said. Two people have been transferred out of county in the past month, he added.

Clallam County’s case rate is 72 per 100,000 for the past two weeks as of Monday, with the rise primarily attributed to two outbreaks, the long-term care facility the county has been tracking and a new one at an unidentified church, said Dr. Allison Berry, Clallam County health officer.

Berry and Locke won’t identify the name of a place where an outbreak occurs unless they are unable to trace exposures, they have said.

The long-term care facility outbreak has increased to 17 total cases, with four staff and 13 residents infected with the novel coronavirus, Berry said.

The church outbreak has had 13 people test positive for COVID-19 so far, with the majority of them unvaccinated, and those exposed have been contacted and asked to self-isolate, Berry said.

The church has canceled services for the next few weeks, she added.

“It is a good reminder that gathering indoors and enclosed spaces — which includes many churches — is a risky activity,” Berry said. “If you are not confident in the vaccine status of your entire church, which most of us would not be, we do strongly still recommend you distance and wear a mask in those congregate settings.”

Those who are vaccinated but are elderly and/or immunosuppressed should also continue to wear masks at churches and congregate settings where vaccination statuses are unknown, as their vaccine does not provide as much protection, Berry said.

Both Locke and Berry continue to urge residents to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Vaccination clinics on the North Olympic Peninsula can be found at peninsuladailynews.com/news/change-in-tactics-to-tackle-covid-beginning.

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.

Fifty-four cases have been confirmed in June so far in Clallam County, about 3.84 percent of 1,405 cases reported since the pandemic began, according to county data.

Jefferson County has confirmed 18 cases this month, about 4.14 percent of the 435 total cases since the pandemic began, according to county data.

Clallam County had two patients hospitalized for COVID-19 on Monday. Jefferson County had at least one resident hospitalized.

Forty-one COVID-19 cases were active in Clallam County on Monday, while Jefferson County had 15 active cases.

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