County Public Health Report ~ 1/25 (contd.)

  • Nationally, new COVID-19 cases have begun to decrease, after rising to an all time peak. Daily case counts have decreased about 33%, a reduction of about 17,000 new cases per day, currently.
  • Washington, having seen a surge in December and January, has seen a 37% decrease in new cases, documenting nearly 1,600 new cases a day. Hospitalizations continue to be our highest numbers yet, but do not exceed our current capacity. Washington is currently reporting 462 new cases per 100,000, with 10.7% cases positivity.
  • As of this day, Jefferson County now has 283 cases, with 69 cases per 100,000 population, and a 3.23% case positivity. Neighboring Clallam County has 143 cases per 100,000 population with 6.4% new case positivity. Both counties remain among the lowest in both metrics in Washington. Mason County has recorded 246 cases per 100,000 population and 19.8% positivity for new cases, with Kitsap County at 195 cases per 100,000 and 9.6% new case positivity.
  • Concerning news is that the variants discovered in Britain have been recently documented in Washington as expected: this strain appears to be about 50% more transmissible than our current circulating strain.
  • The metrics for Mason, Kitsap, Jefferson, and Clallam Counties are tied together in determining progression to the next phase of loosening restriction for re-opening under the RoadMap to Recovery statewide plan. The Northwestern regional data on the four crucial metrics indicating progress to recovery is coming closer in alignment to the data each county is reporting.

Dr. Locke’s responses to questions and topics submitted by KPTZ listeners:

  • Currently, two vaccines are available, Pfizer and Moderna. Both vaccines require two doses and will be given according to the schedule dictated by the clinical trials, with no deviation. Pfizer’s second dose will be given 21 days after the first dose and Moderna’s will be given 28 days after the first dose.
  • All state Governors control allocation of available vaccine supplies according to each individual state’s priorities. Deliveries go directly to each county. Each local county health officer has been encouraged to create a subset of at-risk individuals within state guidelines, to begin with those most at risk of severe disease and death. Currently, Jefferson County is focusing on those in 1B and up for the limited supply of doses available.
  • The vaccines are considered to have an excellent safety record, with over 20 million nationwide having received the vaccine. There is intense demand and it will take a while to get the vaccine to all who are willing to be vaccinated. Initially the state was providing doses to those counties who had the immediate capacity to use doses as soon as they were received. Allocation now is temporarily going to larger urban areas until they receive their equitable share to date. The state will then resume equitable allocation to smaller counties, so we may see a decrease for a few weeks. Our county has nearly one third of residents over 65 years of age and it may take several weeks to make a dent in vaccinating this age group. Expected doses are about 1,000 doses a week for the present time. Washington needs 3.4 million residents statewide to be vaccinated to reach 70% herd immunity.
  • Once you are vaccinated with both doses, nothing will change from our present day recommendations to mask, distance and wash your hands. If you are vaccinated and become a close contact to a confirmed COVID-19 case, the health department will still expect you to quarantine for 14 days…all mitigation strategies remain the same until mid-summer.
  • At some point, traditional community festivals are likely to be able to restart with modifications to spacing and ventilation requirements to reduce outbreaks. It will also depend on the percent vaccinated as this still remains an experimental vaccine granted under the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA and all vaccinations remain voluntary.
  • There is no truth to the rumor that the state is with-holding any vaccines doses.
  • Currently, three (3) pharmacies and a hospital are scheduling vaccinations. We can expect modest increases mid February. The state has directed all received allocations be immediately used, as second doses are accounted for separately.
  • Nearly 4,000 vaccines have been used so far in Jefferson County. Frail elders are being served best in the drive thru clinic at about 250 people a day, some days with up to 400 seniors. Nearly all the 1A priority who want the vaccine have received them. About 75% of hospital personnel have received the vaccine. Dr. Locke will meet with first line responders to answer their questions and encourage higher levels of vaccinations.
  • Currently, new COVID-19 cases result from unsafe behaviors when non-household friends and family congregate. Another risk is just being in the wrong place at the wrong time when a highly infectious person is circulating in the community. As many as 59% of persons infected are either pre-symptomatic or never get symptoms.
  • Locally, the best source of vaccination information is the Jefferson HealthCare website.
  • For information and questions about the vaccines, the Centers for Disease Control CDC) has a phone line operating 7/24: 1-800-CDCINFO. You are also encouraged to bring questions to your health care when you have an appointment.
  • Small social circles of vaccinated persons is not considered safe or wise at this point. Public health officials do not have the data to provide science-based recommendations until the current studies are completed. This is especially dangerous after just having the first dose. High viral prevalence in our community makes this unwise and unsafe.
  • Multigenerational households with the following scenarios will be part of those in the 1B category prioritized for vaccinations, according to further clarification from the state. If you are a grandparent caring for a grandchild, a caregiver of an elderly person or relative, or a family member taking care of an elderly person, you are eligible to receive the vaccine if you are over 65 years old, as supplies become available.
  • Dr. Locke expressed his concern regarding the angst and anger directed at those health professionals managing the vaccination rollout as unfair, given the shortage of vaccine supplies and massive undertaking for all government agencies. It is their role to identify and prioritize those at the greatest risk of disease and death at this point in time. He stated this vaccine is for every resident in this county, not just Jefferson Healthcare patients. Several sites are trying to identify these individuals and reach out to them.
  • It is a matter of being patient, and waiting your turn, and recognizing the inherent limitations of all government and medical facilities when facing and adjusting to this unprecedented pandemic. We currently have the means to protect ourselves, doing what we have done for the last 10 months, until supplies of the vaccine improve. This last stretch will require intense patience, grace, and gratitude from all residents.

Department of Emergency Management Director Willie Bence’s response to our current situation:

  • Jefferson HealthCare has paused making appointments due to lack of vaccines for new appointments; will resume later in the week.
  • Volunteers with medical backgrounds who can give vaccinations and hold a current license are still needed – such as MD’s, RN’s and EMT’s with specialized training to give inoculations. The larger clinics and larger vaccination sites will function mainly on these types of volunteers.
  • As changes happen rapidly regarding vaccine information, the best site is still Jefferson HealthCare. Our efforts have paid off as Jefferson County ranks 4th in the state for giving the vaccine doses per 100,000 population delivered to our county, even in this year-long crisis.
  • If anyone is having trouble navigating the appointment system of websites, they are encouraged to call the phone lines at the Department of Emergency Management at 360-344-9791. Priority still is based on age at this time.