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.
County Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry said today the U.S. will pass 1 million deaths related to COVID-19. “That’s a sobering number, but I don’t think any of us ever thought we were going to pass and many of those deaths were unnecessary,” Dr. Berry remarked.
COVID-19 rates are rising rapidly across the county, with hospitalizations up 20%. That is true for Washington state. The numbers don’t tell the whole story, however. Dr. Berry said the numbers are affected by case ascertainment – many people are taking home antigen tests. She said when looking at state numbers, to multiply them by six to gain a more accurate count. In Jefferson County, there are 66 new cases reported over the weekend for a total of 3,770 with a case rate of 646 per 100,000. With our case ascertainment rate, that gives a rough estimate of about 1,300 cases per 100,000, with 9% positivity. We have no one currently in the hospital for COVID-19 for a total of 127 hospitalizations so far in this response and 29 deaths. Last week, one person in his 70s died out of state, but he did die due to COVID-19 pneumonia so we are counting it. He’s a Jefferson County resident. “We are starting to see hospitalizations right now, but more slowly than in prior variant waves,” Dr. Berry remarked. “That is still predominantly those who are unvaccinated or unboosted elders, but we are starting to see a small rise in boosted hospitalizations for people over 65.” Dr. Berry “thinks it’s appropriate” at this time to recommend an additional booster for those over 65, and everyone should wear a high quality, well-fitting mask.
Dr. Berry said she is beginning to see small clusters of COVID-19 transmission in schools. She said it is most likely due to students not masked in a room with 25 others, and older kids walking between multiple classes. “We are likely to see additional need for masking requirements in schools. In the coming weeks just due to the amount of transmission,” she said. “The primary goal there is that we want to see our schools open and our kids able to attend school. And, if we get too much transmission in school, if we get too many teachers infected in particular, we lose the ability to keep kids in person in school.”
There is high demand for the antiviral Paxlovid for treating mild-to-moderate coronavirus. Jefferson Healthcare is administering this medication up to 5 days after first symptoms. The treatment is for people over 65, or anyone 12 and up who has underlying medical conditions like asthma, COPD, heart disease, immunosuppression, or are being treated for cancer. If you have a positive test and seek this med, call the Nurse Consult hotline at 360-344-3094. Leave a message and someone will call you back. Monoclonal antibodies are also available, and can be given up to 7 days after your first symptoms.
Dr. Berry gave the following guidance for dealing with COVID-19: If you test positive, isolate for the first five days after symptoms begin. If you’re asymptomatic or if your symptoms have gone away by the end of day five, it is okay to leave isolation and wear a high quality mask. But avoid high-risk settings. Wearing a mask around a small group of people after day five is also very reasonable if your symptoms have gone away.
Submit your Public Health questions to Dr. Allison Berry and to Willie Bence by emailing email@example.com. Note: The weekly deadline for these to be submitted is on Fridays at noon, to be answered at the following Monday’s BOCC meeting.