County Public Health Report ~ 9/20

The following is a summary of the presentation during the Public Health briefings at this week’s Board of County Commissioners meeting made by Jefferson and Clallam County Public Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry. Spokespeople from Jefferson Healthcare joined to address the meeting. Also Willie Bence, Director, Director of Emergency Management, gave a report. The summary was provided by and used with the permission of Jefferson County Government.

Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry this morning said COVID-19 cases are decreasing locally. The total number of of cases is up to 932, but our case rate over the last two weeks was 379 per 100,000 – a decrease from where it was last week. “It’s still very high, much higher that we want it to be, but it does suggest that what we’re doing is working,” she said.

Berry told Commissioners that local hospitals continue to be strained and are full, and that hospitalizations typically follow COVID-19 cases about two to three weeks out. She expects the strain to continue, but said things should be easing up in a couple weeks. Statewide, 1,800 people are hospitalized and ICU beds are at about 97% capacity, down one percent from last week. 

Outbreaks in Clallam County (1100 per 100,000) continue to rage with numerous outbreaks in long-term health care facilities. Kitsap County is still seeing high case rates of infections as well (572 per 100,000), with multiple long-term care facility outbreaks, too. Dr. Berry stated that the number one way that COVID-19 gets into long-term care is through unvaccinated staff. She said there have been a few cases where the initial introduction was actually an unvaccinated visitor that infects the family member. That infection is passed to staff and it makes its way through the facility. “We are seeing improvement in Jefferson County, we’re moving in the right direction,” Dr. Berry said. “Case rates are still very high, hospital systems are still very strained, but if we keep doing what we’re doing, I think we really can continue to turn this around and get to a much better place.”

Dr. Berry also noted that there is a nationwide shortage of test kits, particularly the rapid tests that are used in schools so that we can find the results and kind of act on them quickly. Public Health and Emergency Management are working to secure more kits for the long term.

During his COVID-19 briefing, Director of Emergency Management Willie Bence reminded people that the governor’s vaccination mandate will go into effect October 18, meaning that people will need to be fully vaccinated by that date. The single dose Johnson & Johnson needs to be received by October 4 if they already have not begun the Pfizer or Moderna two-part series. DEM plans to have one more private clinic to help employers meet the upcoming deadline, and information may be obtained by calling 360-344-9791.

Bence said his staff is monitoring the potential approval for ages 5-11 to receive the vaccine, as well as the potential approval for booster doses for the 65+ general population. He said they’ve done a lot of planning and are “very comfortable” with where they are with it.

Submit your Public Health questions to Dr. Allison Berry by emailing [email protected]. Note: The weekly deadline for these to be submitted is on Fridays at noon, to be answered at the following Monday’s BOCC meeting.