Peninsula health officers concerned about COVID case numbers rising statewide

COVID-19 cases are starting to rise statewide, causing concern among North Olympic Peninsula health officers as people travel to more at-risk areas.

The rising case numbers aren’t surprising to local health officials, who cited Gov. Jay Inslee’s loosening of mask wearing and other restrictions on May 13 and said it was expected to cause an increase in cases.

“The decreases we saw before were what had started before the state changes were put into place, and what was concerning for myself and Dr. (Tom) Locke is we tried to relax restrictions right at the very beginning of that downturn,” said Dr. Allison Berry, Clallam County health officer.

“Whenever we’ve tried to do that in the past, we’ve seen a rise in cases. We really need to see those numbers quite low in order to avoid a rebound in cases.”

While case rates continue to decline in Clallam and Jefferson counties, both Berry and Locke, Jefferson County health officer, still urge residents to be cautious and get vaccinated as soon as possible.

“People should not get into the mindset that the pandemic is over,” Locke said. “It’s raging elsewhere in the world, and the vaccination rates are not as high as they should be in parts of the county. In some parts of Washington, the (vaccination rates) are half of what they are in Jefferson County.

“We just have this precarious statewide and nationwide situation of mixes of highly vaccinated communities and communities with low vaccination rates, and then we have the variants moving into it.”

Jefferson County will have Johnson & Johnson vaccine available from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at Saturday’s Port Townsend Farmers Market on Tyler Street. Appointments can be made at prepmod.doh.wa.gov or by calling 360-344-9791. Walk-ins will also be accepted.

Clallam County Public Health is conducting two pop-up “shot and a beer” vaccination clinics at the Barhop in Port Angeles from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday for second-dose Moderna shots and also offering the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. There is second Barhop event scheduled from 1-4 p.m. on Monday.

People 21 and older who receive a shot at the Barhop events will be able to have a free beer, Berry said.

The full calendar for pop-up clinics in Clallam County can be viewed at tinyurl.com/PDN-ClallamPopUps.

The state has a vaccination locator at vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov, which allows users to see where appointments are available and which vaccine will be used.

While all state residents 12 and older are eligible to be vaccinated, anyone younger than 18 can receive only Pfizer’s vaccine.

Clallam County confirmed three new COVID-19 cases on Monday and reported 114 cases during May, about 8.46 percent of the 1,348 cases reported since the pandemic began, according to county data.

Jefferson County confirmed one new COVID-19 case Monday. A total of 27 cases were confirmed during May in Jefferson County, about 6.47 percent of the 417 total cases confirmed in the past year, Locke said.

Clallam County had three patients hospitalized for COVID-19 on Monday, and Jefferson County reported one.

Clallam County is in the state’s moderate-risk category with a case rate of 42 per 100,000 population for the past two weeks, while Jefferson County’s new case rate will be calculated Tuesday due to the Memorial Day holiday.

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