Peninsula counties drop into low-risk category

For the first time since early fall, both Clallam and Jefferson counties are in the state’s low-risk category for COVID-19 with case rates below 25 per 100,000 population for the past two weeks.

Neither county reported a new case Monday.

Officials are cautiously optimistic about the low numbers, but other places in the country that have relaxed too quickly have seen a rise in cases again, said Dr. Allison Berry, Clallam County health officer.

”We’re seeing quite a few less cases than we were before,” Berry said. “We certainly are still seeing COVID-19 activity, so it’s still important to practice safe guidelines.

“But, we really are seeing activity slow down, which is very, very hopeful for the future. We have seen other parts of the country start to have rises in cases again, when they relaxed protocols too quickly. So, we’re optimistic here, but we are cautiously optimistic.”

Clallam County’s case rate was 24 per 100,000 for the last two weeks as of Monday, according to public health data.

Jefferson County’s case rate was not updated online Monday, but county Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke stated in his morning briefing with the county commissioners that the new case rate was about 16 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior. A total of five cases were confirmed two weeks ago, but none were confirmed last week, he said.

The most recent case rate Jefferson County listed was 18.81 per 100,00 for Feb. 14-27.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines Monday that allow people who have been fully vaccinated to be able to gather in small groups indoors without a mask, but the CDC said they should continue to wear face masks while with people who are not vaccinated or while they are in public.

Masks still suggested

The reason face masks are still recommended after full vaccination is that people can still have a low-level infection of COVID-19 that they’re unaware of and could potentially transmit to others, Locke said.

Both counties are continuing vaccinations in the state’s 1B1 category, which includes anyone 65 and older, 50 and older in multi-generational households, school teachers and childcare workers.

Appointments at Jefferson Healthcare’s drive-thru clinic are made through the hospital’s “When is it my turn?” list, which qualifying Jefferson County residents or hospital patients can sign up for at jeffersonhealth

Those who register for the Jefferson Healthcare clinic as part of the demographics not decided solely by age are asked to fill out the state’s vaccine phase finder at and print their eligibility notices.

Clallam County does not require that, Berry said.

The Port Angeles High School vaccination clinic will operate on Saturday only this week, and 900 appointments will open up at 9 a.m. Wednesday at Those who prefer to schedule by phone can call 360-417-2430.

Clallam County’s test positivity — the percentage of tests returned positive — was 1.3 percent from Feb. 19 to March 5, according to Clallam County Public Health data.

Jefferson County’s test positivity was zero percent for March 1-7.

Clallam County has confirmed 11 cases of COVID-19 so far this month, about 1.09 percent of the 1,012 cases confirmed during the past year, according to Clallam County data.

Jefferson County has not reported a case this month but has 336 in the past year, according to Jefferson County Public Health data.

Eight COVID-19 cases were active as of Monday in Clallam County. Jefferson County had one active case.

Youngest peninsula COVID death reported

Until two weeks ago, all seven people who had died from COVID-19 in Clallam and Jefferson counties were mostly in their 80s, the highest at-risk age group for contracting the virus.

That changed with the death, reported Friday, March 5, of a Clallam County man in his 50s.

He contracted the virus while travelling out of state before dying at his home, Berry said at her regular briefing on March 5.

As Clallam remains the most vaccinated county in the state and “well within” the moderate-rate category for the viral infections, Berry said his passing signals that North Olympic Peninsula residents should, with vigilance, continue wearing masks in public and practicing safety protocols.

“It is a critical reminder that COVID-19 is still very much alive and well, and circulating, especially outside of our community, though we still have some here as well,” Berry said.

“It is a critical reminder of how serious this infection can be, even to younger people.”

There has been one death a month from the virus reported on the Peninsula.

A woman in her 90s and a woman in her 80s died in Jefferson County in November and December.

Three women in their 80s, a woman in her 70s and a man in his 80s have died in Clallam County since August.

Like the man whose death was reported last week, most had underlying health conditions or age was a factor.

Volunteer nurse Michelle Grinnell preps COVID-19 vaccination doses at the Jamestown Family Health Clinic drive-thru clinic in Sequim on March 4. Sequim Gazette photo by Michael Dashiell

Volunteer nurse Michelle Grinnell preps COVID-19 vaccination doses at the Jamestown Family Health Clinic drive-thru clinic in Sequim on March 4. Sequim Gazette photo by Michael Dashiell