Teachers, school staff and childcare professionals now COVID-19 vaccine eligible

Teachers, school staff and childcare workers can now sign up for COVID-19 vaccination appointments after a directive from President Joe Biden was ratified by Gov. Jay Inslee.

Appointments are available at the Sequim and Port Angeles mass vaccination sites and local pharmacies, and Jefferson Healthcare is working on plans to incorporate the new additions into its vaccination plans, officials said.

On Wednesday, Clallam County confirmed six new cases of COVID-19, while Jefferson County held steady with no new cases, according to county public health data.

Of the new cases in Clallam, two are children who go to separate day care facilities, two other cases are household members of those cases, and the other two remain under investigation, said Dr. Allison Berry, Clallam County health officer.

“This is a good reminder that kids can get COVID,” Berry said. “With kids, the symptoms can be quite mild, and so it’s really important that if your kid is sick at all, to still get them tested for COVID-19.”

The state’s press release lists “educators, school staff and childcare workers” as now included in the current phase.

Amy Yaley, Jefferson Healthcare spokesperson, said hospital personnel are trying to get specifics about which school staff members and childcare workers are included.

The federal change specifically allows for Pre-K through 12th-grade teachers and staff and licensed childcare workers to qualify for the vaccine with no age restrictions, said Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer.

Local health officers said they are glad to expand to those professionals. They were already on the list for the next phase, so preparations had started.

“We’re lucky. We’re in a good position,” Berry said. “That announcement came out rather late [Tuesday], and I think a lot of public health departments are just kind of scrambling to accommodate the increased need.

“We’re luckily in a position where we have vaccine, and we have appointments available.”

Clallam County residents or people who work in Clallam County that are teachers or school staff, childcare workers, 65 and older or 50 and older in a multigenerational household can sign up an appointment at the Port Angeles High School clinic or the Jamestown S’Klallam’s Sequim clinic at vaccine.clallam.net/register.

Those who must schedule by phone can call 360-417-2430. As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, appointments were still available for both clinics.

A multi-generational household is defined as a person older than 50 living with grandchildren or older relatives, or if they provide care to an older relative or grandchildren or a loved one with disabilities, Berry has said.

Jamestown also opened an additional 1,000-dose vaccination clinic on Saturday, March 13.

Officials ask that school and childcare workers bring some form of proof of their employment to their appointments. If proof isn’t easily available (such as for those working in small childcare facilities), arrangements can be made.

Jefferson Healthcare expanded its “When is it my turn?” list to also include those 50 and older in multigenerational households who are Jefferson residents or hospital patients. They can join those who are 65 and older in signing up at jeffersonhealthcare.org/covid-19-vaccine, Yaley said.

Yaley also said those in multi-generational households will need to go to the state’s vaccine phase finder at tinyurl.com/PDN-PhaseFinderTool and print their eligibility notice that it gives once filled out.

The phase-finder tool also has a vaccination location tool that people can use to find where to get vaccinated. This helps people connect with local pharmacies, which will play a large role in vaccinating the teachers, staff and childcare workers, Locke said.

While the change is welcome, appointments still will be limited by the amount of vaccine available, Locke said.

“We try to keep looking at the big picture, and we want everyone to get vaccinated. It’s really just a question of when,” Locke said.

“We’re really encouraging people to not look at this as competition between different groups and who’s more worthy than someone else.

“Everyone is equally worthy. It’s just a factor of we do not have enough supply to meet demand. So, inevitably, priorities have to be set, and we don’t get to set them. As a matter of law, it’s the governor of each state that gets to set the priorities.”

Clallam County’s test positivity — the percentage of tests returned positive — was 2.3 percent from Feb. 14-28, according to Clallam County Public Health data.

Jefferson County’s test positivity was 1.03 percent for Feb. 22-28.

So far this month, Clallam County confirmed eight cases of COVID-19, about 0.79 percent of the 1,009 cases confirmed since March 2020, according to Clallam County data.

Jefferson County has confirmed one case this month, about 0.3 percent of the 336 it has confirmed since March 2020, according to Jefferson County Public Health data.

Fifteen COVID-19 cases were active as of Wednesday in Clallam County. Jefferson County had four active cases.

Clallam County is in the state’s moderate-risk category with a case rate of 32 per 100,000 population during the past two weeks as of Wednesday.

Jefferson County is in the state’s low-risk category with a case rate of 18.81 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Saturday.