Jefferson County had 205 new cases in December 2021 (through Dec. 30) for a total of 1,508. That’s an uptick from 164 in October and 139 in November, but lower than our highest month, September 2021 with 305. But as of Jan. 5, we had 1,636 cases, an increase of 128 over six days. It’s believed the sharp increase reflects both holiday gatherings and travel as well as the extremely contagious Omicron variant, which is prevalent in Washington and the US.
The one encouraging metric is Jefferson County’s COVID-19 death rate, which is one of the lowest in the country, according to Dr. Allison Berry, our public health officer. We had 20 COVID-19 deaths through December of 2021, but our rate is about half the state rate and a quarter of the national rate, she said. Twenty is too many, but it would have been 40 or 80 if our rate was comparable to state and national rates. Dr. Berry attributes our lower death toll – in spite of our significantly older demographic – to a high vaccination rate, masks and social distancing, and the vaccination requirement for bar and restaurant patrons.
Like many other hospitals, Jefferson Healthcare Hospital is very short of staff and unable to operate at full capacity. This makes it more difficult to treat critical patients with heart attacks, strokes, car wreck trauma, etc., let alone new COVID-19 patients, about two-thirds of whom are unvaccinated.