A Clallam County man in his 80s died Sunday from COVID-19, raising the total number of deaths caused by the virus to 23 on the North Olympic Peninsula.
The man, who was unvaccinated, was the 19th COVID-19 fatality in Clallam County, while Jefferson County has had four residents die from the disease, according to public health data.
Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties, expressed her condolences to the man’s family and friends.
“This is a small community. I expect there are people reading this newspaper that already know who died,” she said. “I just want to extend our condolences to this gentleman’s family and his friends and really encourage all of us to do our part to protect our elders by getting vaccinated.”
Over the weekend, Clallam County confirmed 80 new COVID-19 cases, while Jefferson County confirmed 16 new cases, Berry said.
Berry confirmed the delta variant is the dominant strain among new cases on the North Olympic Peninsula, as genetic sequencing has showed about 80 percent of new cases being delta, she said Monday in her briefing with the Board of Jefferson County Commissioners.
Both counties continue to see significant increases in COVID-19 cases as the highly contagious delta variant circulates in both communities, Berry said.
“We’ve never seen anything like this,” she told the commissioners. “It’s a really critical time to get the virus under control to keep society functioning.”
Both counties continue to set record-high case rates, recording the highest either county has seen during the pandemic.
Clallam County recorded a case rate of 392 per 100,000 population for the two weeks prior as of Monday, Berry said. Jefferson County’s case rate is 235.11 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Saturday, she added.
The health care system on the Peninsula seeing “significant strains,” caused by staffing shortages and Intensive Care Units being full in other parts of the state, Berry said. She recommended the three area hospitals to start preparing to stop elective procedures for the time being.
“Unfortunately, we expect this to get worse before it gets better,” Berry said, highlighting hospitalization and death increases are lagging indicators that trail a few weeks behind large increases in case numbers.
Nine people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Clallam County and two were hospitalized in Jefferson County as of Monday, Berry said.
Monday marked the start of the Berry’s latest masking order, which requires anyone 5 and older to wear a face mask indoors in public spaces, including businesses, restaurants and government buildings.
The rising case numbers are “deeply concerning,” Berry said, adding we won’t see the benefit of things like the masking order for two weeks after it is put in.
“We do expect these numbers to get worse,” she said. “Many parts of the state and the country don’t have masking orders, have less people vaccinated than we do and so that will continue to stress the hospital system even after things get better out here.”
“I do believe that things can and will get better out here, but we have to make serious changes and, unfortunately, the benefit of our changes, it always takes at least two weeks. We have to prepare for how we’re going to get through the next two weeks.”
Jefferson County has confirmed a total of 597 cases since the pandemic began, while Clallam County confirmed 2,018 cases since the pandemic began, according to county public health data.
Tribe, Clallam Health to offer students vaccination reward cards
The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and Clallam County Health and Human Services will be distributing Student Vaccination Reward Cards of $50 to each student attending any of the upcoming student vaccination events.
Students already vaccinated may present their vaccination card and receive a $50 card as well.
Students under the age of 18 need parental consent for the vaccination. If the parent is not present, a student can provide written consent or have the parent call during the vaccination. Consent forms can be found at clallam.net/coronavirus/doc/CCIC5-21.pdf.
“We are very excited about this opportunity to reward those students that receive vaccinations,” said Brent Simcosky, Director of Health Services for the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe. “We feel it is important to get our students safely back to school full time and the best way to achieve that is through student vaccinations.
“Both the Tribe and Clallam County are splitting the cost of the Reward Cards and we want to show our community that if we work together, we can make a difference.”
Dr. Allison Berry, Clallam and Jefferson County Health Officer, said, “Getting as many eligible kids vaccinated as possible is critical to keeping our schools safe and open this fall. We are grateful to partner with the Jamestown tribe to work together to meet this goal.”
Sequim-area vaccination events include:
• Saturday, Aug. 28, at the Sequim Back to School Fair, at the Sequim school stadium parking lot on West Fir Street (10 a.m.-noon for Helen Haller Elementary students, noon-2 p.m. for Greywolf Elementary students, any time for middle school, high school, Olympic Peninsula Academy and Dungeness Virtual School students)
• Tuesday, Aug. 31, Sequim Timberwolf days, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., at Sequim Middle School, 301 W. Hendrickson Road
Additional vaccination events are set for: Saturday, Aug. 21, Port Angeles Back to School Fair, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at Lincoln Center, 905 W. Ninth St.; and, 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 26, and Thursday, Sept. 2, at the Forks Public Health Office, 140 C St. SW, Forks.