Officials worry about wave of infections after Thanksgiving

Case rates remain stable, but high, on Olympic Peninsula

Case rates for COVID-19 on the North Olympic Peninsula have been stable this week but public health officials are preparing for what they predict will be a wave of cases stemming from Thanksgiving gatherings and travel.

Transmission is starting to increase nationwide, spurred mainly by the Northeast and Midwest due to the colder weather in those places and more people gathering inside sooner, said Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Jefferson and Clallam counties, on Thursday.

“That is concerning from our end, because it likely portends what’s coming as we move into the winter months,” Berry said. “Those areas of the country got colder faster, so people moved indoors.

“We expect that we will likely see a rise in cases soon as well, most likely driven by the Thanksgiving holiday.”

Berry recommends that anyone who is gathering for Thanksgiving this year should make sure they are only among vaccinated people to be safe.

”We’re really encouraging our citizens to celebrate Thanksgiving safely,” Berry said. “The best way to do that of course is to get everyone in your household vaccinated if they can be.”

Those traveling should invest in a high-quality face mask such as a K95 or KN95 to reduce the chance of contracting COVID-19, Berry said.

Those gathering with unvaccinated people should consider having them take a rapid antigen test before the holiday, as an extra precaution, Berry said.

Keep those gatherings small, she added.

The smaller the gathering of unvaccinated individuals, the less chance there is of transmission of COVID-19, Berry said.

Also, people should not attend holiday gatherings if they know they’re sick, Berry said.

Both Peninsula counties remain in the state’s high-risk category with case rates more than 75 per 100,000 population for the past two weeks.

The counties need to have rates below that for two weeks before Berry will lift the order mandating that indoor dining is limited to vaccinated customers only.

Clallam County had a case rate of 274 per 100,000 population for the past two weeks as of Thursday, according to county public health data.

In Jefferson County, health officials recorded a case rate of 201.93 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Nov. 10. The county will be calculating its new case rate today.

According to the latest data from the state Department of Health, 82.1 percent of the population 12 and older in Jefferson County have started vaccinations, with 78.1 percent fully vaccinated.

Of the entire population, 75.5 percent have begun vaccination and 71.8 percent are fully vaccinated, according to the state’s dashboard.

In Clallam County, 76.1 percent of the population 12 and older have started vaccinations, with 71.3 percent fully vaccinated.

Of the total population, 67.6 percent have begun vaccinations, with 63.4 percent fully vaccinated, according to the state’s dashboard.

Since Monday, Clallam County has added a total of 38 cases of COVID-19. The county has confirmed a total of 5,160 cases since the start of the pandemic, Berry said.

Jefferson County added 23 new cases since Monday. The county has confirmed a total of 1,245 cases since the pandemic began, according to county public health data.

Neither has county reported a new death this week as of Thursday due to COVID-19. Clallam County has had 68 residents die from the novel coronavirus, while Jefferson County has had 17 residents die.

As of Thursday, six Jefferson County residents and six Clallam County residents were hospitalized for COVID-19.