Peninsula back in moderate-risk COVID category

Health officials say masking is recommended, not required

North Olympic Peninsula health officials are encouraging people 50 and older to get a second COVID-19 booster shot that has been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration, but they also say it’s not immediately necessary.

“The second booster is approved for those 50 and over, but the data is lacking to make a strong recommendation for that group to get a second booster right now,” said Dr. Allison Berry, the health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties.

“We’re still seeing excellent protection against severe disease after three doses. Generally, we would recommend an additional dose if we saw that protection waning, and we’re just not seeing that yet.”

The booster became available on March 30 and is also available for those 12 and older who are immunocompromised.

Those interested and eligible can get their vaccines and boosters from most pharmacies, their medical care providers, and area hospitals.

Meanwhile, Berry is recommending wearing masks indoors as both Clallam and Jefferson counties are in the state’s moderate-risk category for COVID-19.

The B.A.2 subvariant of the omicron variant is now the dominant strain, but so far only one case has been sequenced and subsequently diagnosed on the Olympic Peninsula. Most of the cases in the state are being reported along the Interstate 5 corridor.

BA.2 is more contagious than the BA.1 variant of omicron but has not been proven to be more severe, Berry said. Vaccines, masking, and other protections against COVID-19 have proven to be effective against BA.2, she added.

The city of Philadelphia announced Monday it will bring back its masking mandate as case rates begin to skyrocket.

Berry said what happens on the I-5 corridor as well as the East Coast are good indicators of what could happen here in the coming weeks, although she said mandatory masking on the Peninsula is not likely.

“Generally, our case rates follow after the East Coast and the I-5 corridor, so they can give us somewhat of a window of what is to come,” she said. “They also give us some lead time to react, to make changes so that our cases don’t have to rise as severely.

“Generally, I am unlikely to mandate masking unless we see a significant strain on our healthcare system. However, I do recommend masking when case rates are high so that we can prevent that kind of a strain from happening.”

Both counties’ case rates are in the moderate-risk category, with Clallam County reporting 139 cases per 100,000 population for the past two weeks as of Monday, and Jefferson County reporting 168 cases per 100,000 during the two-week period ending last Friday.

Both counties also saw additional cases over the weekend with Clallam County going from 11,071 total cases to 11,089 since the pandemic began and Jefferson going from 3,237 cases to 3,246 since the pandemic began.

Case rates are a reflection of cases reported during a two-week period. They are computed using a formula based on a 100,000 population even for counties that do not have 100,000 people living in them.

There were no new deaths from COVID-19 in either county. Clallam held at 111 total deaths since the pandemic began, and Jefferson has reported 28.