County Public Health Report ~ 9/19/22

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 today’s County Commissioner Covid update, Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry, said, “the news is positive.” In Jefferson, COVID-19 case rates are flat at 324/100,000. Positivity is downtrending to 8.5%, with a case ascertainment rate of about 50%. There’s been a dramatic drop off in wastewater surveillance in Port Townsend, down about 75% in July, and last month down about 20%. No one is hospitalized for COVID-19 locally. One death occurred last week, a woman in her 80s with multiple chronic conditions who was fully vaccinated but not boosted.

Dr. Berry urges anyone over 65 to get the Omicron-specific booster. She notes it’s the same base formulation for the vaccine, but the target is different. It’s specifically targeted to BA.4 and BA.5 which are the current circulating variants. “Unlike the other boosters that have come before, this one really promises to prevent symptomatic disease as a whole, not just prevent severe disease, hospitalization and death,” she said. Jefferson has a limited supply of the vaccine, but should be getting more within the text month. “If you are over 65, if you are immunosuppressed, or if you are a healthcare worker or a first responder – primarily because we take care of those folks at high risk – we recommend you get vaccinated in this first round,” Dr. Berry said. “For everyone else in our community, we strongly recommend you get vaccinated, too. But we’d really encourage you to hold on for about a month so that we can get these highest risk folks vaccinated first.” Mass vaccination booster clinics were previously announced but available appointments are already filled. Options include Jefferson Healthcare and local pharmacies. You can also put your name on a wait-list via the Jefferson County Public Health website.

Dr. Berry clarified some misinformation about the Omicron specific booster: “There’s some misinformation circulating saying that there weren’t safety trials for the Omicron-specific booster and that’s not true,” Dr. Berry said. “This vaccine is the same one that we’ve been using this whole time. So all of the safety trials related to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines also apply to the Omicron specific booster. The only change is the target. So the most similar analogy I could share is that when we vaccinate for the flu every year, we change the target every year to whatever variants are circulating in the world.” She continued, “But we don’t do a whole new round of safety trials every fall prior to rolling out the flu vaccine because the base vaccine is the same. So that’s why you’re not seeing a new round of safety trials. It’s not not normal to do when the base vaccine is the same and the target is different. So it’s just targeting the Omicron variants as opposed to the wild type theory.”

The State of Emergency that was put in place by Governor Jay Inslee will end October 31. Dr. Berry reported that many of the orders related to COVID-19 have already expired or have been revoked, with only a few remaining concerning emergency credentialing. “The one order that is not expiring is the requirement for masks in healthcare settings,” Dr. Berry explained. “So as long term care facility, certain correctional settings and all healthcare facilities, you can expect your providers will still be masked in those settings and you will be expected to wear a mask as well.”

Dr. Berry said there were no reported cases of Monkeypox (MPV) in Jefferson County and one in Clallam County. In the state, 497 cases have been diagnosed; nationwide there are over 21,000 cases. Jefferson has the Jynneos vaccine and is vaccinating now. Anyone can get MPV. Vaccine eligibility has been extended to include those who have had an STI in the last year, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, and anyone who has injected drugs in the last few months.

Director of Emergency Management Willie Bence said our degraded air quality is improving rapidly here in Jefferson County as the wind has shifted to an onshore flow. A large fire near Stevens Pass combined with a small brush fire locally at the intersection of 104 and 101 led to the unhealthy air. Bence also referenced the 3.7 magnitude earthquake that occurred Thursday morning on the Toandos Peninsula. He requested that those who felt it be “citizen scientists” and complete the “Did You Feel It?“ questionnaire for the USGS.

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.