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. Also Willie Bence, Director of Emergency Management, gave a report. The summary below was provided by and used with the permission of Jefferson County Government.
During County Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry’s weekly update, she noted that cases are rising on the west coast and throughout the U.S. Additionally, she feels there is a “dramatic undercount” because the vast majority of the country doesn’t count home antigen tests in their reported totals. Locally, home tests account for 70% of our positive cases. Washington state believes that they’re capturing about 16% of the positive cases in their counts right now. Dr. Berry noted that hospitalizations are beginning to rise which she noted is a “concerning trend.”
Because both Jefferson and Clallam counties are in the high risk transmission zone (above 200 cases per 100,000), Dr. Berry strongly recommends masking in indoor settings. “I think that transition back is going to take a little bit of time, she noted. “Many, many people in our communities got the message that COVID-19 was over when a lot of the restrictions went away so I think it’s going to take a little time to get everybody on board with masking in indoor settings again. I do think it’s a really good idea to do so. We’re seeing quite a bit of COVID-19 transmission. “If you’re in an indoor space with people you don’t know and you don’t know their vaccination status, that’s a space where it’s a really good idea to wear a mask. But, if you are in a private setting, I think a small dinner party is reasonable. If you are going to have a party with 10 or more people regardless of their vaccination status, I would recommend wear a mask in a setting like that. ”Dr. Berry suggested that location is important, too. For example, when visiting a care facility or a high-risk family member, wear a high-quality mask. Consider testing before you go and, if you are symptomatic, postpone your visit.
Dr. Berry noted that COVID-19 at-home testing is an important measure to determine if you are infected. Here’s the protocol from Dr. Berry: If you just have a mild symptom and it goes away and you test and it’s negative, that’s good enough. If you’re testing just because you’ve traveled and you don’t have any symptoms, a single test should be enough for you. But if you are sick, especially if you’re vaccinated, we know that your symptoms tend to start very early and sometimes even before your viral load has caught up enough to get to turn positive on a test. So, especially for our fully-vaccinated folks – but really for anyone – if you get sick and you take a test on that first day that you have symptoms and it’s negative, but those symptoms persist, take another test the next day. We’ve seen people turn positive 24 to 48 hours later, especially if you’re vaccinated, because your viral loads are low. That’s good. Your low viral load makes you less likely to transmit to other people and less likely to get severe symptoms, but you could still turn positive later. If you’re sick, take more than one test. There are an ample supply of antigen tests right now. If you’re still sick a couple days later, definitely still stay home whenever you’re symptomatic. And take a test again the next day. Test kits are available at Jefferson County Public Health, the libraries, and the fire departments in South County. They are also available free of charge from the State: https://sayyescovidtest.org. Order now to have a supply when needed.
As for Booster shots, Dr. Berry noted that the first booster is the most important one. “It would be reasonable if you are 75 and up and you have underlying conditions, consider getting that fourth booster just as a safety precaution,” she said.
If you are 65 and older, test positive for COVID-19, and are at a high risk for severe disease, there is an 5-day course of oral medication available. In Jefferson County, contact the Jefferson Healthcare COVID Nurse Consult Hotline for information on how to access the prescription: 360-344-3094.
Submit your Public Health questions to Dr. Allison Berry and to Willie Bence 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.