County Public Health Report ~ 5/09/22

Even though KPTZ’s broadcast of Monday’s meeting was cut short due to technical issues, here is the complete recording of the meeting’s Public Health briefings by Dr. Berry and Willie Bence. The summary below was provided by and used with the permission of Jefferson County Government.

In today’s COVID-19 briefing, County Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry said COVID-19 cases are on the rise nationally (up 50% in the last two weeks), regionally and in Jefferson County. Hospitalizations in the U.S. are up 20%, driven by action in the northeast U.S. Currently, Jefferson’s case rate is 537/100,000 with 10% positivity. Data on hospitalizations in King and Snohomish counties show those affected are unvaccinated or are elders who have not received their first boosters.“ If your only immunity comes from prior infection, it’s really important to go ahead and get that vaccine to reduce your risk of not only getting sick but getting severe disease,” Dr. Berry said. Dr. Berry said there is a “ton of it” (highly contagious virus) circulating in our community. “The good news is we’re not seeing a rise in severe disease for those who’ve gotten vaccinated and boosted,” she explained. “But, if you’ve not gotten vaccinated yet, or if you’ve not gotten that booster, we are seeing a rise in severe disease and hospitalization and so we want to do everything we can to prevent that. The most important thing is to get that vaccine, get that booster, and to wear a high quality mask in indoor settings, when you could potentially be exposed to this virus.” Dr. Berry said that if you’re vaccinated and boosted, symptoms can be quite mild. “If you’re feeling off at all, do go ahead and get tested.”

Dr. Berry outlined protocols for dealing with COVID-19: If you test positive: isolate. Stay home for 10 days from when your symptoms start. Most people will have some symptoms but if you have no symptoms at all, it’s 10 days from when you test positive. If you have very limited symptoms and your symptoms resolve within five days, it is reasonable to test again. Take five days plus the first day that you had symptoms and test again. If you test negative, it is reasonable to leave isolation, but wear a high-quality mask for the remainder of those 10 days. Test yourself before you leave isolation. Otherwise, you could continue to spread the virus to others. If you are vaccinated and boosted: if you’re up-to-date on your vaccines, (which is actually just one booster to count as up to date), you don’t have to quarantine but we do recommend that you wear high-quality masks for at least 10 days after your exposure. That’s a good idea because breakthroughs happen. If you’re not up to date on your vaccines: we recommend that you quarantine at home for five days after your exposure and then test before you go back into public and of course continue to wear a mask for a full 10 days after your exposure. Note: Often viral loads are relatively low especially in the beginning. So if you develop symptoms, definitely do test. But if you test negative the first day and you have symptoms that go on for another day, test again. You might find that your viral load was too low to be picked up on a test the first time.

COVID-19tests are available at Public Health, libraries, pharmacies and online at: https://sayyescovidhometest.org. Home antigen tests are generally good for 15 months to a year after their manufacture date. Store them at general room temperature and don’t get them wet. Dr. Berry said that currently about 50% of recorded cases in Jefferson are from home antigen tests.

Jefferson County is starting the process of getting wastewater surveillance from the Port Townsend’s sewer system. Dr. Berry said that the County is setting up a contract with the State Health Department and the program should be going live in the next few weeks. According to the CDC’s Wastewater Survellance report: “People infected with SARS-CoV-2 can shed the virus in their feces, even if they don’t have symptoms. The virus can then be detected in wastewater, enabling wastewater surveillance to capture presence of SARS-CoV-2 shed by people with and without symptoms. This allows wastewater surveillance to serve as an early warning that COVID-19 is spreading in a community. Once health departments are aware, communities can act quickly to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Data from wastewater testing support public health mitigation strategies by providing additional crucial information about the prevalence of COVID-19 in a community.”

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.