State expected to identify 1B, 1C vaccination groups; Guidelines may include elderly, essential workers

Local public health officials expect to receive guidance this week, possibly as early as today, about the next groups that will be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines.

There were four new cases reported on the North Olympic Peninsula on Sunday, an encouraging sign a week after Christmas. All four of those were in Clallam County.

Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke said the 1A groups are getting vaccinated and should begin the second round of their vaccines this week. The group includes frontline health care workers, first responders, and patients and workers at long-term care facilities.

Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to issue guidelines identifying the 1B and 1C groups sometime this week.

Locke said that, barring guidance from Inslee, the county could go with guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Locke said the likely people to be included in the 1B group are those 75 or older and essential workers, which may include teachers and grocery workers. Those who may be included in the 1C group are people ages 65-75, those with chronic health conditions and all other essential workers, which Locke described as a “large group.”

In any case, Jefferson County and Jefferson Healthcare will not be sitting on the vaccines they have been supplied, Locke said.

“All of our vaccines are going into someone’s arm within a week,” he said.

Locke said he hopes the 1A, 1B, and 1C group members can be vaccinated by the end of February.

He stressed that the country is somewhat in a race against time, as it’s believed a more contagious mutation of COVID-19 has arrived in the United States.

“It really ups the ante all the more,” Locke said.

He said people who get the vaccine can expect more side effects from the second shot they will receive such as a low-grade fever that might require them to miss a day or two of work.

“That’s a very small price to pay for immunity,” he said.

Clallam County now has 761 positives since the pandemic began in March, with 59 active cases and two infected people currently in the hospital. Clallam’s last reported infection rate was 129 per 100,000 population during the past two weeks, in the state’s high-risk category.

Jefferson County had no new positives reported Sunday. The county remained at 228 positives since March, with 19 active cases in isolation and an infection rate of 62.70 per 100,000 during the past two weeks, in the state’s moderate-risk category.

The Peninsula is approaching 1,000 total positives since March as Jefferson and Clallam counties have combined for 989 cases.

Locke said Jefferson County is still bracing for a possible surge of cases from Christmas and New Year’s gatherings.

“We won’t be out of the woods for a couple of weeks,” he said.

Locke will provide his usual Monday COVID-19 update to the Board of Jefferson County Commissioners at 9:45 a.m. today. The meeting can be viewed at www.tinyurl.com/jeffco meetings.

As usual, Locke will take questions from KPTZ Community Radio listeners. He expects the discussion to include preparations for a holiday surge in cases and the continued rollout of vaccines.

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