North Olympic Peninsula’s health officer reported a total of 407 cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Clallam and Jefferson counties over the holiday weekend and said cases and deaths are expected to rise in the next two weeks.
Two Clallam County men were reported on Tuesday as succumbing to the COVID-19 virus.
Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties, said both men — one in his 50s and one in his 60s — were unvaccinated. At least one had underlying health issues.
That brought the total number of deaths ascribed to COVID-19 to 89 in Clallam County since the pandemic began. With the total number of deaths in Jefferson County being 22, the deaths reported Tuesday bring the toll on the Peninsula to 111.
Clallam County saw a significant rise in cases over the weekend, jumping to a total of 8,190, up 300 cases from 7,890 on Jan. 14.
Clallam’s case rate was 2,161 per 100,000 population as of Tuesday.
Jefferson County also saw a significant increase in cases, jumping to 2,123, up 107 cases from 2,016 cases last Friday. The case rate was 1,260 per 100,000 on Tuesday, but it will be updated on Friday, Jan. 21.
For at least the next two weeks, cases, hospitalizations and most likely deaths are expected to continue to rise, Berry told the Jefferson County commissioners on Tuesday.
“Nationwide, we are seeing incredibly high rates of transmission,” she said.
“About 800,000 cases are diagnosed every day in the U.S. Hospitalizations are still rising nationwide and unfortunately deaths are as well,” Berry said.
“In Washington, we are not at our peak yet … Our cases are skyrocketing with about 2,000 cases diagnosed every day, and unfortunately our hospitalizations are continuing to rise,” Berry said.
At Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles, at least 14 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Tuesday.
Four were in the intensive care unit (ICU); another was transferred to an ICU out of the county.
Jefferson Healthcare hospital in Port Townsend had two people hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Tuesday. Of those one is in the ICU.
Berry warned that healthcare systems in Clallam County are near the breaking point compared with Jefferson County due to the number of people who need medical attention for COVID and other emergency services, placing a massive strain on the emergency department at OMC.
“What we’re really seeing that’s different between the two counties is that, in Clallam County, the sheer number of people with COVID that are needing to be seen in the ER or in the hospital is beyond straining the hospital … it’s nearly buckling under the pressure of all those patients who need medical care, particularly emergency department medical care.
“We are actually not seeing that in Jefferson, and that is really thanks to the sheer number of folks in the community who are vaccinated,” Berry said.
However, Berry said emergency transport service is strained throughout the region.
“We ran into a critical shortage over the weekend where we couldn’t transport folks out of this region no matter how sick they were,” she said.
Berry again encouraged those who are eligible to get vaccinated and boosted and discussed the national movement to distribute tests.
“The federal government has promised that we can all have up to four antigen tests per household,” she said.
“They’ve set up a website where you can go and order your tests. I will be interested to see how that roll-out goes. That is a technological challenge that won’t crash when all of the United States tries to log in at once, but I hope it goes well,” Berry said.
The covidtests.gov site did a soft launch on Tuesday and appeared to run smoothly. Those who order tests are expected to receive them through the U.S. Postal Service within one to two weeks.
Vaccinations continue to be available through OMC and Jefferson Healthcare as well as at area pharmacies and vaccine clinics.
Willie Bence, director of Jefferson County Department of Emergency Management, said the state Department of Health caravan will be on hand at Blue Heron Middle School in Port Townsend on Jan. 22 from 9-11 a.m. to distribute the Pfizer vaccine to those 18 and younger and Moderna for those 18 and older. Then it will travel to the Brinnon Community Center to offer the same from 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Youths of ages 5-17 can sign up at prepmod.doh.wa.gov/appointment/en/reg/0019862590, while adults 18 years old and older can sign up at prepmod.doh.wa.gov/appointment/en/reg/2690591109.