Transmission of COVID-19 is widespread across the North Olympic Peninsula, but cases are not as severe as previous virus outbreaks, according to the region’s health officer.
“We’re not seeing the kind of surge that we used to see,” said Dr. Allison Berry, Clallam and Jefferson County Health Officer.
“Given that we’re at 800 or more cases per 100,000, we would normally have seen a significant increase in hospitalizations and deaths by now and we just don’t see that here, not now,” Berry said Friday.
“This is hopeful because it suggests that the amount of our community that is vaccinated and the amount that has recently had an infection is going a long way towards preventing this serious disease,” she concluded.
Two people were hospitalized with the virus in Clallam County on Friday. Both are unvaccinated and in intensive care at Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles.
As of Friday, no Jefferson County residents were hospitalized with COVID-19.
Clallam’s total deaths from COVID-19 since the pandemic began was 112, while Jefferson’s remained at 29 deaths since the pandemic began.
Despite the low hospitalization and mortality rates, Berry and other health officials across the state are strongly recommending people wear masks due to significant indoor transmission rates.
“We definitely strongly recommend it indoors, but right now there is no plan at the state and local level to move to a mandatory masking mandate unless we see a significant increase in serious illness, hospitalizations and deaths,” Berry said.
Clallam County has added 279 new cases since last Monday, bringing the total to 12,332 to 12,611 cases since the pandemic began, with a case rate of 868 per 100,000 people.
Jefferson County added 117 new cases since last Monday, bringing its total from 3,912 to 4,029 cases since the pandemic began, with a case rate of 923 per 100,000.
The case rates reflect the cases reported during a two-week period. They are calculated using a formula based on 100,000 residents, even for counties that do not have 100,000 residents.
Berry expects the first round of approved COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 6 months to 4 years to be available to the peninsula public by the end of June.
“We are making plans to ensure these are quickly delivered to families as soon as they become available,” Berry said.
“Unfortunately, I assume there will be some hesitation,” she continued. “There is just so much misinformation out there.
“I think the good news about this vaccine is that the initial data that we have is that this vaccine is safe and highly effective, particularly for this age group,” which is the age group of children that “we’re the highest for.” Crowd see hospitalization,” she said.
Monkeypox has reportedly been spreading in the United States lately
As of Friday, one case had been reported in Washington state. This was in a King County man who had recently traveled to a country where other cases of monkeypox had been identified.
If it spreads to the peninsula, “I think we’re in a good position to deal with monkeypox, mostly because of the experience we’ve had with COVID-19,” Berry said.
“The good news with monkeypox is that most people don’t get seriously ill, so it’s primarily a public health response, a contact-tracing response, and god knows we know how to do that.”
The first human case of monkeypox was reported in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The disease can spread through close contact with lesions, bodily fluids, respiratory droplets, or handling contaminated materials.
The World Health Organization reported that “based on the information currently available, cases have been identified primarily, but not exclusively, in men who have sex with men and are treated in primary care and sexual health clinics.”
Following the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, gun violence as a public health issue has resurfaced in conversations between health officials and the public.
“When it comes to gun violence, I think we should look at that issue when we look at the causes of death,” Berry said.
Berry said gun violence is now the No. 1 killer of children.
Before that, car wrecks were the leading cause of death among children in the United States.
“If we look at these causes of death, one of the things we see is a rapid increase in gun violence deaths and a simultaneous rapid decrease in motor vehicle deaths,” Berry said.
“It’s not an accident. This is due to public health intervention and appropriate safety measures. I think we could use the same public health interventions when it comes to things like gun violence,” Berry said.
Reporter Ken Park can be reached at [email protected].