Two more COVID-19 deaths reported on peninsula

Two more deaths have been ascribed to COVID-19 as cases rise in Clallam County.

The county has lost two more residents to the virus, one woman in her 50s and one in her 90s, said Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties, on Tuesday.

Both were unvaccinated. It is unknown if either had any underlying health conditions.

The deaths bring the county’s total to 80.

As of Tuesday, Clallam County had 5,697 total cases since the pandemic began — an increase of 143 cases from the 5,554 reported on Thursday — with a case rate of 364 per 100,000 population, while Jefferson County held steady with a case rate of 180 per 100,000 and total cases of 1,399.

“We had a pretty significant surge of hospitalizations in Clallam County, mostly traced to indoor gatherings of largely unvaccinated people,” Berry said.

Ten people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in Clallam County — up from eight on Thursday — and two in Jefferson County.

Clallam County is still awaiting sequencing results on COVID-19 cases tied to a high school wrestling tournament, where the Omicron variant was present. North Olympic Peninsula wrestlers did not compete at the tournament but did compete later with people who had attended.

Berry reported Monday to Jefferson County commissioners that the case rate from the event on the Peninsula was up to 15. Previously, there were 11 known cases.

“Our sequencing on our individual cases is still outstanding,” she said. “It takes a few weeks to come back, but since their source case was omicron, we highly suspect that those cases are omicron as well.”

Berry said that confirmation likely will come in early January, especially as the omicron variant begins to eclipse the delta variant in its spread.

“We are seeing increased rates of breakthrough infections as well as reinfections,” Berry said.

“We are seeing people being reinfected within three months of their last infection. It really supports the idea that prior infection alone is not enough to protect from omicron,” she said.

“The good news is, even if you don’t get a booster, the vaccines are showing very strong protection against hospitalization and death from omicron, and the boosters are showing very strong protection against symptomatic disease,” she added.

Berry strongly encourages folks to get their boosters and to get tested prior to gathering for the holidays.

COVID-19 rapid tests have been flying off of store shelves, she said.

“I think a lot of the demand is driven by holiday travel right now, but I think it’s also from people getting sick,” Berry said.

Many stores across the country have had to set limits on the number of tests that can be purchased due to the shortage. To that, Berry recommended prioritizing the purchase of tests for those who are not yet able to get vaccinated.

“We are recommending that when you buy tests to prioritize them for those who cannot get vaccinated yet or are symptomatic,” Berry said.

“We also recommend checking periodically with a primary care doctor or getting testing done at a clinic, where the turnaround time is about 24 hours.”