Two more die of COVID-19 in Clallam

Clallam County confirmed two additional deaths due to COVID-19 Tuesday, and it also has seen a rise in hospitalizations, health officials said.

Clallam County had three additional patients hospitalized for COVID-19, rising its current hospitalizations to six, with two in the intensive care unit, said Dr. Allison Unthank, county health officer.

Two women in their 80s died of COVID-19 on Monday and Tuesday, respectively, in their homes, Unthank said.

One had prior health conditions and was hospitalized before she was discharged to hospice care, and the other had no underlying health conditions, Unthank said.

Both were previously diagnosed with COVID-19, she added.

“We want to give our condolences to the families,” Unthank said. “It is a huge loss.”

The total deaths in Clallam County due to COVID-19 is now four, while Jefferson County has had one.

Clallam County also confirmed 17 additional cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, while Jefferson County confirmed three new cases.

Hospital preparations

Unthank expects the rise in hospitalizations to continue.

“Unfortunately, we normally do see a rise in hospitalizations about two weeks after a rise in cases, which is exactly where we are right now,” she said.

“We are preparing within our hospital system knowing that we likely will see a rise in hospitalizations this week and next.”

Jefferson County had no COVID-19 patients hospitalized as of Tuesday afternoon; however, county health officer Dr. Tom Locke predicts there could be a rise in hospitalizations stemming from the Thanksgiving holiday.

“Our No. 1 concern is an additional surge in cases related to the holiday and the pre-holiday period,” Locke said. “That’s both driven by travel — especially out-of-state travel but also in-state — combined with large family or social gatherings.

“Most of those, if they occurred, occurred on Thanksgiving Day proper, so those are especially risky, given our high levels of circulating infection in the community.”

Both Unthank and Locke are concerned about asymptomatic and minor cases of COVID-19 that potentially are still infecting others but have not been tested for the virus. They urge anyone showing symptoms of COVID-19 to get tested as soon as possible.

Tip of the iceberg

“The confirmed cases are only the tip of the iceberg, and the iceberg is getting bigger,” Locke said.

Recently, vaccine producers Pfizer and Moderna announced the submission of their vaccine candidates to the Food and Drug Administration for an emergency use authorization, which, if approved, would allow for the vaccines to be used commercially against COVID-19.

If approved, Locke estimates that, at the earliest, the first shipment of the Pfizer vaccine could arrive in Washington state by Dec. 15 and Moderna’s by Dec. 28.

Both vaccines are administered through two separate doses taken a few weeks apart, he said.

Between the two vaccines, it’s estimated that Washington state will receive about 400,000 doses by the end of the month, and they will be prioritized for health care workers.

But that is not enough to vaccinate all the at-risk health care workers in the state, Unthank said.

It is hoped that between those two vaccines, as well as two others that are currently in Phase 3 trials in the U.S., there will be enough quantity to be able to start being distributed to the general population in April or May to the early summer months at the latest, Locke and Unthank said.

Clallam County has confirmed 516 cases of COVID-19 since March, with 171 active cases, more than 500 people in quarantine due to exposure, six patients hospitalized and four deaths, according to Clallam County Public Health data.

Jefferson County has confirmed 170 cases of COVID-19 since March, with 15 active cases, 43 people in quarantine due to exposure and one death, according to Jefferson County Public Heatlh data.

Both counties are in the state’s high-risk category with case rates of 222 cases per 100,000 population for the past two weeks in Clallam County and about 138 per 100,000 for the past two weeks in Jefferson County.