Virus Watch Reports

Jefferson County February 2021 Case Numbers

This graph shows the monthly and cumulative number of COVID-19 infections reported in Jefferson County, from March through February, 2021. Data source: Jefferson County Public Health Department website, graph created by KPTZ.

As of February 28, 2020 the total number of COVID-19 cases in Jefferson County was 335. There were 28 cases in January, slightly more than the spike of 79 in November.

County Public Health Report ~ 3/01

Today, March 1, Jefferson County Public Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke shared his assessment of the pandemic in Jefferson County and answered questions submitted by KPTZ listeners. Department of Emergency Management Director Willie Bence also gave an update on current Emergency Operations actions, in light of the most recent developments.

Even though broadcast of the March 1, 2021 Public Health Briefings was incomplete, the entire segment is now included in this audio recording. 

Click here to read complete notes on today’s briefings

Submit your Public Health questions to Dr. Tom Locke by emailing contactus@kptz.org. Note: The weekly deadline for these to be submitted is on Fridays at noon, to be answered at the following Monday’s BOCC meeting.

KPTZ’s Through Science to Health ~ 2/26

Chris Bricker, KPTZ host, along with Lynn Sorensen, RN, meet once again with Dr. Joe Mattern, Jefferson Healthcare’s Chief Medical Officer, via Zoom for this week’s Through Science to Health episode. Dr. Mattern coordinates JHC’s COVID-19 vaccination program and speaks to the state’s distribution of the vaccine supply and the process of getting the vaccine into the arms of Jefferson County’s 12,000 residents 65 years and older. Dr. Mattern addresses equity in access to the vaccine supply and how JHC plans to reach county residents who may be unable to access the vaccine appointment registration process via the internet.

County Public Health Report ~ 2/22

The following is a summary of the presentation made by Dr. Locke, our local Health Officer, during the Public Health briefings at this week’s Board of County Commissioner’s meeting:

Click here to read the complete message

Submit your Public Health questions to Dr. Tom Locke by emailing contactus@kptz.org. Note: The weekly deadline for these to be submitted is on Fridays at noon, to be answered at the following Monday’s BOCC meeting.

County Public Health Report ~ 2/16

The following is a summary of the presentation made by Dr. Locke, our local Health Officer, during the Public Health briefings at this week’s Board of County Commissioner’s meeting:

Click here to read the complete message

Submit your Public Health questions to Dr. Tom Locke by emailing contactus@kptz.org. Note: The weekly deadline for these to be submitted is on Fridays at noon, to be answered at the following Monday’s BOCC meeting.

KPTZ’s Through Science to Health ~ 2/12

One must be nimble to respond to the changing landscape of the pandemic. Lynn Sorensen, RN and Chris Bricker, KPTZ host had prepared for Through Science to Health earlier on February 11, only to have Governor Inslee announce later that same day that the Northwest Region – Jefferson, Clallam, Mason, and Kitsap Counties – were being advanced to Phase 2 in Washington’s Roadmap to Recovery. Other topics discussed:

  • Advancing to Phase 2 will benefit businesses such as restaurants and bars by allowing indoor seating to 25% of their capacity (see coronavirus.wa.gov for details).
  • In addition, the UK variant virus has been identified in King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties. The UK Variant is more infectious than COVID-19 and double masking is recommended to reduce risk of transmission.
  • A better fitting mask (or two masks) equals better protection for the wearer.
  • Vaccine, vaccine, whose got the vaccine? Uncertainty in vaccine allocation and supply continues to be a problem in Jefferson County.

County Public Health Report ~ 2/08

The following is a summary of the presentation made by Dr. Locke, our local Health Officer, during the Public Health briefings at this week’s Board of County Commissioner’s meeting:

Click here to read the complete message

Submit your Public Health questions to Dr. Tom Locke by emailing contactus@kptz.org. Note: The weekly deadline for these to be submitted is on Fridays at noon, to be answered at the following Monday’s BOCC meeting.

County Public Health Report ~ 2/01

The following is a summary of the presentation made by Dr. Tom Locke, our local Health Officer, during the Public Health briefings at this week’s Board of County Commissioner’s meeting:

General remarks:

Click here to read the complete message

Submit your Public Health questions to Dr. Tom Locke by emailing contactus@kptz.org. Note: The weekly deadline for these to be submitted is on Fridays at noon, to be answered at the following Monday’s BOCC meeting.

KPTZ’s Through Science to Health ~ 1/29

On this episode of Through Science to Health, host Chris Bricker talks once again with Dr. Joe Mattern, Chief Medical Officer for Jefferson Health Care. He’s charged with overseeing the logistics of distributing the COVID-19 vaccines for Jefferson Healthcare.

Dr. Mattern gives us an overview of logistics, from supply and allocation to scheduling. He emphasizes the importance of following protocols, even after receiving the second dose. He also discusses the variants of the virus, dosage efficacy, and projections for getting our population here in the county vaccinated. He describes the collaborative and thorough planning taking place that assures that no one is left behind. He also walks us through the steps that we should expect at the vaccination site.

County Public Health Report ~ 1/25

Today, January 25th, 2021, our local Public Health Officer, Dr. Tom Locke shared his assessment of the pandemic in Jefferson County and answered questions submitted from KPTZ listeners.

Dr. Locke spoke of the need to temper our expectations, as the vaccine supply is limited as well as the enormity of the task of vaccinating so many residents.

General remarks:

Click here to read the complete message

KPTZ’s Through Science to Health ~ 1/22

This afternoon on Through Science to Health KPTZ’s host Chris Bricker summarized some of the national COVID-19 statistics and Lynn Sorensen, RN reviewed Dr Locke’s January 19 update to the BOCC and community. Vaccines to protect the populace against COVID-19 are being given through Jefferson Healthcare’s drive up clinics with registration online through the JHC website. The rollout of the vaccine depends on supply that the state distributes each week to the counties. New guidelines were announced by the state of Washington this week on the tiers/ages eligible for the vaccine. The community is asked to be patient with the process.

County Public Health Report ~ 1/19

The following is a summary of the presentation made by Dr. Locke, our local Health Officer, during the Public Health briefings at this week’s Board of County Commissioner’s meeting:

Note: As of this day, Jefferson County now has 269 cases, with 125 cases per 100,000 population, a 3.18% case positivity. Neighboring Clallam County has 154 cases per 100,000 population with 8.5% new case positivity. Both counties remain among the lowest in both metrics in Washington.  Mason County has recorded 360 cases per 100,000 population and 19.8% positivity for new cases, with Kitsap County at 233.cases per 100,000 and 12.5% positivity.  The metrics for Mason, Kitsap, Jefferson and Clallam Counties are tied together in determining progression to the next phase of loosening restriction for re-opening under the RoadMap to Recovery statewide plan.

Today, January 19, Public Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke shared about the recent Jefferson County increase in COVID-19 cases. He answered questions from KPTZ listeners about:

Click here to read the complete message

Submit your Public Health questions to Dr. Tom Locke by emailing contactus@kptz.org. Note: The weekly deadline for these to be submitted is on Fridays at noon, to be answered at the following Monday’s BOCC meeting. 

County Public Health Report ~ 1/11

The following is a summary of the presentation made by Dr. Locke, our local Health Officer, during the Public Health briefings at this week’s Board of County Commissioner’s meeting:

Today, January 11, Public Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke shared his assessment of the pandemic in Jefferson County and answered questions submitted from KPTZ listeners.

Note: Next Public Health update will occur on Tuesday, January 19th due to the Martin Luther King Holiday on Monday.

General opening remarks:   

Click here to read the complete message

KPTZ’s Through Science to Health ~ 1/08

Today on Through Science to Health Chris Bricker, KPTZ host, and Lynn Sorensen, RN welcomed Dr. Joe Mattern of Jefferson Health Care to join our conversation regarding the ongoing response to the pandemic. Joe Mattern, MD is JHC’s Chief Medical Officer and the Medical Director for JHC’s Home Health and Hospice. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have arrived in Jefferson County and healthcare workers were the first to be offered vaccinations.

Dr Mattern is charged with the logistics of what group of community members will be next for the vaccine. And how to best notify those selected. Not everyone has internet or uses JHC’s My Chart EMR. The CDC has advisory guidelines for the people most at risk for contracting COVID-19 but it is up to the individual states/Governors to decide on the distribution of the vaccine and who is next in line.

County Public Health Report ~ 1/04

Today, Public Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke Locke shared his assessment of the pandemic in Jefferson County: Nationally, new cases have leveled off, although at a very high plateau. Record deaths and new cases have been recorded nationally and statewide. The most impacted areas still are Southern California and Arizona, with ICU capacity stretched to its limits. The consensus is that the worst still lies ahead.

Washington has leveled off with nearly 2,500 new cases a day. ICU bed capacity remains available, still with the chance to still accept transfers. Locally, Jefferson County recorded 25 cases in the last two weeks, with a slightly higher 78.7 cases per 100,000 population. Recent cases reported reflect holiday gatherings of households, which drove the surge and are expected to be reflected in new cases about mid-January. To date, we remain a county with one of the lowest rates in the state.

Dr. Locke stated that although holiday travel has brought new cases to our county, transmission to other community members can be stopped by the simple effort of quarantining yourself for 14 days and monitoring for symptoms of infection.

Dr. Locke also answered questions submitted from KPTZ listeners:

  • Revisiting your POLST directives regarding use of ventilators is wise, although current treatment for COVID-19 has improved, requiring use of ventilators less likely. One can make the distinction between use in futile care versus temporary use for recovery.
  • The two primary benefits of masking are trapping secretions from the source person and filtering the air you breathe. If your nose is uncovered, you are providing a direct route to the target cells of the coronavirus. The receptor cells are present in the highest numbers in your nose. It is also a violation of state law not to cover your nose when wearing a mask.
  • President-elect Biden’s national mandate for universal masking follows the science. It slows transmission and can prevent illness and deaths.
  • New viral strains are not uncommon as it is a well-established phenomenon that viruses mutate and errors can occur during replication. However, the newly discovered more infectious strains, one in Britain and South Africa have complicated the pandemic. Nearly 50% of identified close contacts in Britain are genetically linked to this more infectious strain. New vaccine technology includes genetic material from the whole spike protein and is unlikely to thwart the current vaccine.
  • Current vaccines in use have been granted under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA and are still considered experimental. Health care workers (HCWs) who have not taken the vaccine are not likely, at this point in time, to be required to be vaccinated. The vaccines are expected to “sell” themselves by their remarkable efficacy. It is expected that the hesitancy among HCWs may subside over time, but may be required when the vaccines get final approval from the FDA, as is seen with other vaccinations for infectious conditions.
  • Persons testing positive for COVID-19, without symptoms, should isolate for 10 days from the date of the test.
  • The process for establishing priority for limited supplies of vaccines has been in the works for months. CDC has an advisory committee that has produced a schematic based on the science of who is most at risk of morbidity and mortality. It is a tiered hierarchy that has been sent to all states as a guidance document. State governments have discretionary powers to make some changes based on the pandemic numbers in their respective states. In Washington, the Governor has produced a document for the 1A tier. Additional directions for 1B and 1C population specifics are expected this week. A number of issues continue to be considered and confound the timely rollout of these documents.
  • Age (over 75) is the single most independent variable of progression to serious disease and death when considering an individual’s placement in the vaccination hierarchy. Immune-suppressing health conditions at any age, or in combination with age, are a high priority.
  • The quantities of vaccines delivered to Jefferson County are highlighted at the hospital’s incident command meeting each week. As of today, 970 vaccinations have been administered, with 980 held in reserve for the upcoming second dose to be given this week as per Pfizer’s protocol. Dr. Locke states they are using the vaccines aggressively for those in the 1A tier.
  • Currently, 61% of healthcare workers in 1A have been vaccinated, with a goal of 70% fully vaccinated with two doses. Next, tier 1B and 1C will receive the first dose of the vaccine. Medical staff are waiting for the state document from the Governor’s Office for further clarification on 1B and 1C populations. By the middle of January, essential workers are expected to be vaccinated.
  • Handling requirements for the two available vaccines limits which local providers are able to provide vaccinations for the local population. Currently, we are advised to follow website information for Jefferson Healthcare for the notification process, or the Washington state DOH, listed above. All notifications are dependent upon governing documents, vaccine supplies and actual arrival of shipments.
  • The currently available vaccine (Pfizer) takes about 10-14 days to develop immunity to the virus. Pfizer’s vaccine, after the first dose alone, provides about 52% protection of developing severe disease if you are exposed and infected, with Moderna’s being higher with one dose. Vaccination with two doses of either vaccine provides 95% protection.
  • Herd immunity levels to bring this pandemic to a close needs to be about 75% of the current population in Jefferson County to be fully vaccinated.
  • Recent clinical trials of both available vaccines were not designed to study the effect on contagion or viral loads if a person becomes infected after getting the vaccine. These studies are currently being done. This requires participants in the trial, which is ongoing, to have their noses swabbed every other day, an intensive process.
  • Individuals in the 1B priority ranking are expected to be vaccinated within a few weeks. Continue to check the Jefferson Healthcare and Jefferson County Public Health websites listed above for information. A drive-thru clinic will be established in Manresa Castle parking lot and available by appointments.
  • For those households who have older individuals in different priority categories, clinical judgement should be used to vaccinate clusters within a residence, focusing on the highest risk individuals.
  • Currently, medical personnel are extracting 6 doses from each prepped vial of the Pfizer vaccine and they are on track not to waste a single dose. An on-call list has been established in the priority hierarchy if anyone misses an appointment so the dose will get used, as there is no preservative in this Pfizer vaccine.
  • A current controversy surrounds the issue of using all doses of the vaccine delivered for one dose only, then waiting until enough vaccine becomes available for a second dose to boost the immune response, as the supply becomes available. Most experts are against this variation as the clinical trials did not provide data on this scenario. If the goal is to STOP transmission, the vaccines need to be delivered on the schedule recommended by the manufacturers, Pfizer and Moderna. One possibility is that Moderna could be used this way as the dosage uses more micrograms of the genetic material than Pfizer and has good protection with the first dose.
  • Dr. Locke continues to meet every Tuesday with the local school districts. The focus remains on moving toward in-person attendance soon, with a robust plan for mitigation if and when a COVID-19 case is reported in these settings, which is expected.

Department of Emergency Management Director Willie Bence reported that area Fire and Rescue EMT’s are not currently involved in vaccine rollout, but may be in the future, but continue their regular duties. Citizens are reminded that road closure and power outages continue to pose problems and are reminded to update and refresh their emergency supplies and plans.

Mr. Bence did request any persons with medical backgrounds to please contact him to help as volunteers in the vaccination campaign. This would start the process to register as emergency workers.

Submit your Public Health questions to Dr. Tom Locke by emailing contactus@kptz.org.

Crucial Point in the Pandemic

As Jefferson County awaits and shifts part of its COVID-19 response to the arrival and distribution of long-awaited vaccines, KPTZ brings you an important message for your consideration regarding the state of our COVID-19 epidemic. 

This year, holiday gatherings present a challenge to our celebratory expectations. It’s so tempting to want to gather with friends and family during this holiday.  It’s what we expect and want to do this time of year….but we are faced with the fact that COVID-19 cases are being reported in greater numbers now than in the beginning of the pandemic.

Following warnings from government and public health officials, many Americans either stayed home or limited the size of their Thanksgiving gatherings. In nearly all counties, people had fewer contacts this Thanksgiving than they did last year…but cases are still rising. As one public health official stated, ”The fact is, many people took precautions and that helped towards slowing the steep increase in cases … but it’s not been enough. Many of our hospitals are close to running out of ICU beds and staff to care for really sick people.” The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington has projected that our state will run out of ICU beds in early January 2021. The surge of COVID-19 cases is threatening the well-being of our medical professionals. as well as tragically having to consider rationing our medical care.

Every community sits at a crossroad. Our individual and collective behavior is crucial in determining whether coronavirus cases continue to rise over the next few months. Our efforts at masking, distancing, and hand-washing served us well when there was a low amount of virus circulating, but each surge has increased the level of circulating virus enough to make an impact now. We need to use every action and recommendation from public health professionals to dramatically shut down the continued spread of this virus.

Here is what we know works:
• Following public health recommendations reduces new COVID-19 cases. 
• Distancing provides the best protection from coming into contact with the virus.
• You get an added layer of protection when social distancing is paired with wearing a mask over your nose and mouth any time you step out your front door. 
• And handwashing is always a defense against spreading germs.

Your greatest risk for exposure to the virus is being inside a closed environment. The more time you spend inside, the more likelihood of exposure and infection. Our public health officer Dr. Tom Locke has stated that small gatherings with people who don’t currently live in our house currently drive the increase in cases in Jefferson County. Case investigation and contact tracing is critical to reduce the spread of any communicable disease. When the number of cases outpaces the local resources available, it becomes more difficult to quickly identify and quarantine infectious persons and their close contacts. Although it’s typical for viruses to mutate, a lower number of cases means fewer chances to mutate. 

The good news: here is what we can do going forward: 
• In November our Governor, upon the advice of health professionals, asked us to forgo the traditional family and friends gatherings we typically have this time of year. More of us need to keep this up until the cases go down to a manageable level.
• If you have any symptoms typical of COVID-19 infection, get tested. Don’t hesitate.
• Re-visit what you consider are your basic and indispensable needs. Dr. Locke has encouraged us not to skip routine or preventative medical and dental care, but cautions us to reduce travel to nearby counties that have a greater surge in new cases. 
• Staying home is still safest. To get essential supplies, keep it quick, keep your distance and wear a face covering. 
• Support local businesses. Many of our local merchants and restaurants have demonstrated their willingness to adapt their services with curbside pick-up. Supporting them makes it possible for them to survive this pandemic.

Nothing is more important than ensuring the health and safety of our communities, our workforce and our beloved businesses.

County Public Health Report ~ 12/21

Public Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke shared an update regarding the pandemic picture in Jefferson County: The national picture continues to show certain region experiencing steep increase in new infections, while other regions’ new cases are slowing. The South and Southwest U.S. are experiencing the greatest increase in new infections. Overall, new infections are up 10% over the last two weeks and the deaths continue. Washington’s cases are plateauing, with new cases slowing. Hospitalization use is at an all time high. Counties surrounding Jefferson continue to be higher than state guidelines for suppression of the virus, but beginning to slow. Jefferson County stands at 59.6 per 100,000 population, down from the last update and 2-3% of all tests are positive.

Vaccines arrived in Jefferson County last Tuesday. 975 doses, about half of which have been administered, came on Tuesday. Appointments continue to be made for those on the priority list. Priority categories can be viewed on the Washington State Department of Health website. Prioritizations initially are issued from the CDC as well as state and local entities as needed. Dr. Locke estimates about 1 million persons will step forward to be vaccinated by the end of February 2021.

Approaching the end-of-year holidays, Dr. Locke reminds us that we have not yet seen the worst of the winter surge. Locally our behavior over the Thanksgiving holiday changed enough to avoid a community surge. Cases continue to be primarily among those who mix household members or who receive visitors from outside our county, who unknowing infect those household members. Restricting movement among members of different households is easier and needs to continue to avoid a surge that could appear after the holidays. See the recommendations on the JC Public Health website. Testing for travel is still limited in Jefferson County. Washington will begin a program for vouchers for COVID-19 testing through Walgreens.

Answers to questions from KPTZ listeners:

  • After traveling, it is not necessary to forgo scheduled medical or dental visits, except when receiving invasive dental procedures. Discuss with your provider.
  • Suicides are thought to rise during the holidays, when in fact, they do not. What does increase is drinking, anxiety and drug use.
  • COVID-19 theoretically can be introduced to your eyes and travel to your nose, where it gains entry to your body, but is typically inhaled through the nose.
  • The amounts of vaccine doses shipped to each state are based on the percent of the population present in each priority group established by the CDC. It is a description of those at highest risk of serious disease and exposure. Local counties have some leeway to adjust the hierarchy. Review by a consortium of experts on vaccine safety for the western states will not hold up distribution to our state.
  • Two-thirds of coronavirus negative tests are primarily taken when someone has symptoms or has exposure to a positive case. One-third are taken for those undergoing pre-procedure testing. No influenza has been seen in Jefferson County to date.
  • Improvement in health outcomes for serious COVID-19 disease has come from improved clinical management. Newer FDA-approved drugs have made modest improvements. Masking appears to reduce infectious viral dose.
  • To avoid recurring surges, masking needs to improve. Trend toward more aggressive enforcement of masking and a possible ban on face shields for improved source control may be on the horizon. Discussions are also looking at strategies for enforcement of store capacity to reduce spread.
  • COVID-19 tests for travel and families who want small gatherings are limited. Other options are purchasing test kits in stores or online.
  • Vaccinations stimulate your body to react to the presence of a virus or bacteria. Current vaccines for COVID-19 prevent progression to serious clinical illness, as measured in the randomized clinical trials. Both Moderna and Pfizer vaccines will provide 95% protection of stopping the virus from sufficiently reproducing. Infectiousness of individuals after they got the vaccine and got infected were not studied in the trial, but are underway. Assume that 5% of the population who gets the vaccine and gets the virus can spread the virus, as the vaccine was not protective enough to stop the virus from rapidly reproducing.
  • Continued masking is critical as the vaccine fails in about 5% of those getting the shot. We also need to get about 60-70% of the population inoculated to sufficiently suppress circulation of the virus.
  • There is no need to have anyone test for previous COVID-19 infection as determined by antibody tests. The degree of protection from natural infection is variable. Vaccines may be better protection than natural infection. It’s not a problem to get the vaccine if they have concurrent asymptomatic infection. If symptomatic, the advice is to have symptoms clear before getting the vaccine.
  • New strains appear because viruses are always mutating, especially the COVID-19. The new strain seen in England and South Africa has been under the radar of scientists since September of this year. It appears to facilitate faster spread as evidenced in the change in the R naught number, 1.1 to 1.5. It appears to be 70% more effective in spreading quickly. Mutations rarely affect vaccine effectiveness. New mRNA technology makes adapting vaccines easier.
  • All vaccines have expected and well documented side effects. More serious adverse events have been seen with these vaccines such as anaphylactic shock. This reaction has been seen before and is treatable. With more individuals vaccinated, we will discover more rare adverse events, but the important word is “rare”.
  • The Department of Emergency Management does not currently have a role in vaccine distribution or rollout at this time; They will follow the lead actions as determined by Jefferson Healthcare and the Public Health Officer, Dr. Tom Locke.

There will be no BOCC Public Health update on December 28th. They are in recess and will return January 4, 2021.

Submit your Public Health questions to Dr. Tom Locke by emailing contactus@kptz.org.

County Public Health Report ~ 12/14

Today, Public Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke shared about the recent Jefferson County increase in COVID-19 cases. He answered questions from KPTZ listeners about:

• The infection rate and death numbers are up, nationally and statewide.
• Jefferson County is the 3rd lowest infection rate, although we have dropped to 94/100,000. Cumulative case number is 195.
• The Pfizer vaccine is on its way, will be here shortly, and will be available through Jefferson Healthcare. First-line medical workers are first, then long-term-care residents, followed by government essential workers and then those over 65.
• You can reduce your risk through isolation for at least 7 days, have the PCR test on day 8, then stay in isolation until day 10.
• Evidence shows people are immune for at least 3 months following COVID-19 infection.
• The Pfizer vaccine research and trials information is public.
• Yes, our hospital does have the advanced treatment drugs on hand.
• Excess deaths: If death is from another cause, it is not counted as a COVID-19 test even if the person is infected.
• Good websites: CDC, WADOH, also NY Times and Washington Post information.
• Each test has pros and cons: none of the tests are 100% accurate.
• The old test swabs that were painful have been replaced by an easier, less invasive swab that is self administered.
• When flying, use a high-efficiency mask and meticulous hand sanitizing; take direct flights; avoid lengthier flights.
• You are more likely to become infected from droplets, which are larger, than from smaller aerosols.
• Municipal wastewater studies are not as useful, though these studies are valid.
• The Pfizer vaccine may offer reduction in severity of illness, but it is still unknown whether people can spread the disease. This will become known as more people take the vaccine.
• Proof of vaccination: everyone will have a record. At first, the same restrictions will apply, whether vaccinated or not. It requires a 70% vaccination rate for these to be lifted.
• The new CDC quarantine guidelines have been revised. For high-risk situations, the wait time is still 14 days. In some cases, 10 days may be sufficient. The 7 days with test quarantine is not practical, due to efficacy.
• For a PCR positive test confirmed case, with no symptoms, the quarantine is 10 days.

Submit your Public Health questions to Dr. Tom Locke by emailing contactus@kptz.org.

KPTZ’s Through Science to Health ~ 12/11

Through Science to Health’s conversation between Lynn Sorensen, RN and Chris Bricker, KPTZ host included a select reiteration of Jefferson County’s Health Officer, Dr Tom Locke’s COVID-19 update to the BOCC on December 7, 2020, along with current COVID-19 vaccines soon to be available in the US. Lynn stressed that the vaccine roll out will be in stages starting with the frontline healthcare workers, first responders, and nursing home residents and their caregivers. Also that the vaccine will not take the place of masks or other hygiene measures until at least 70% of the US population is vaccinated.

County Public Health Report ~ 12/07

Today, Public Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke shared about the recent Jefferson County increase in COVID-19 cases. He answered questions from KPTZ listeners about:
*Case count in WA state is up by 20%, which overwhelmed the state’s data system causing it to be down some in the past week.
* Jefferson County has the lowest case rate in the region.
* People with public health backgrounds are welcome to volunteer to assist Jefferson Co. Public Health with contact tracing.
* Distancing is the most important technique for avoiding the virus. Outdoors, at least 6 feet. Masking does not substitute for physical distancing. Even though not required, wearing a mask while bike riding is also recommended.
* Current recommendation is to stay home and stay healthy for at-risk individuals. Doctors’ offices are not at high risk for transmission.
* Cooked take-out meals are minimum risk, and helps the local economy.
* The real risk in dining out is when gathering with non-household members. The safest way is to dine only with one’s own household.
* Best time for testing is 5 days following a close contact with someone who contracts Covid-19.
* The 25% occupancy (of fire capacity) is up to the store itself to maintain. 
* Discussion of vaccines: the government has purchased enough for the entire US population, so they will be available at no out of pocket cost.
* Vaccination levels need to be at least 70%, and perhaps more, before it will be possible to stop wearing masks.
* Vaccines have not been tested on children under 18, which will delay rollout of the vaccine to youth.
* WANotify phone app system is recommended, for anonymous contact tracing of both time and distance.

Department of Emergency Management Director Willie Bence said that 45,000 additional N95 masks are being delivered, prioritizing hospitals and first line workers. This represents an increase in capacity.

Submit your Public Health questions to Dr. Tom Locke by emailing contactus@kptz.org.

KPTZ’s Through Science to Health ~ 11/27

In this special edition of Through Science to Health, Lynn and Chris speak with two graduates of Port Townsend High School who are now working as medical professionals in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wisconsin.
Jesse Maupin, Hospitalist at the University of Wisconsin Medical Hospital, and Will Bringgold, who is doing his pulmonary and critical care medicine fellowship at University of Wisconsin in Madison, offer their perspective from the front lines.

They candidly and compassionately speak of the long hours, increasing staffing needs, and the sincere need for community support and empathy to help them with the day-after-day challenges in patient care during these times.

Jesse has written a letter to the Leader, which will be published in its December 2 edition. The title: “Empathy in the Time of COVID.”

County Public Health Report ~ 11/23

Today, Public Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke shared about the recent Jefferson County increase in COVID-19 cases. He answered questions from KPTZ listeners about:
• Numbers are worse: nationally, overall cases increased 54% in 2 weeks, and deaths are also up, with lagging count behind the increase in case count.
• Jefferson County increased by 53 cases in the last 2 weeks. Testing turnaround is slower. Clallam having a similar surge. Other areas of the state are even worse.
• The ability to do high-quality contact tracing is limited when the case levels are higher. Jefferson County has 11 trained contact tracers, and so far they have been able to keep up with the pace.
• The holidays are a big concern, and it’s highly everyone recommended stay home with one’s own household.
• He recommends that healthy people schedule needed health care appointments, rather than postponing.
• COVID-19 has a residual effect on people’s health afterwards, with lingering effects for 10% of confirmed cases.
• Mask type studies on cloth masks vs. disposable masks are not conclusive.
• There are delays in testing due to higher case loads, based on staffing issues.
• Vaccines will go to first-tier responders who have first-line contact with people who may be Covid-infected. By April, the hope is that everyone can be vaccinated. So far, side effects have been mild.
• Because of higher infection rates, to be at lower risk, you should shop at less busy store times.
• Increase air exchange with ventilation system and open windows.
• Schools have reduced classroom teaching, pending reduction of transmission rate.

And, from Department of Emergency Management Director Willie Bence:
• A field hospital is a temporary popup hospital and if it becomes needed there is potential for opening a regional field hospital. At this point, models are not showing this to be needed. Maintaining staffing is the current concern.
• An outreach campaign “COVID SMART” is embarking, featuring Sanitation, Masks, Airflow, Room Between People, Technology for Gatherings.

Submit your Public Health questions to Dr. Tom Locke by emailing contactus@kptz.org.

County Public Health Report ~ 11/16

Today, date Public Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke shared about the recent Jefferson County increase in COVID-19 cases. He answered questions from KPTZ listeners about:

• The country and our county are in exponential growth phase, with state case increase of 124% in the past 2 weeks.
• Locally in Jefferson County, 31 new cases in the last week. Four were from household and close friend spread, others were from out-of-county visitors or from visitors here; extended family infections; cluster in a pod;
• There is a 7-day threshold following exposure, meaning that if the person who was exposed is negative on Day 7, they are likely not to become infected or infectious.
• Tests of the new vaccine are looking to be viable strategies. It is thought that it will require 70% of the population to be vaccinated in order to be effective.
• Baking for others is considered to be minimum risk.

Don’t forget, you can submit your Public Health questions to Dr. Tom Locke by emailing contactus@kptz.org.

KPTZ’s Through Science to Health ~ 11/13

On today’s Through Science to Health KPTZ Host Chris Bricker and Lynn Sorensen, RN, continue to stress the importance of maintaining the mitigation measures of masking, hand washing, and social distancing as the US experiences the third wave of the pandemic. The upcoming holiday season when families will want to get together are advised not to by Dr Tom Locke, our public health officer. Jefferson County’s case rate is much lower than other counties across the state and sticking to the mitigation measures will help to maintain that rate.

Pfizer has announced a vaccine that is 90% effective to the coronavirus and could be distributed before the end of 2020. Lynn explained how this vaccine differs from past vaccines with its genetic mechanism to stimulate the immune system.

KPTZ listeners are encouraged to listen weekly to Dr Tom Locke’s pandemic updates to the BOCC on Monday’s at 9:45am.

County Public Health Report ~ 11/09

Today, date Public Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke shared about the recent Jefferson County increase in COVID-19 cases. He answered questions about:

• Case count has increased by 8 in the last 7 days, with the total now at 96. This moves us into the moderate risk positivity rate, at 34 cases per 100,000. Some other counties in Washington are farther along into the third COVID-19 wave, as had been predicted for the fall-winter season.

• Our Public Health Department is working very actively to be ready for vaccine distribution, is likely to prioritize first responders and those at greatest risk.

• As for masks, surgical masks are the most effective, but cloth masks are nearly as effective for source control such as when out shopping.

• The costs of quarantine, although challenging for people and families, is a concern our local public health department is working to address, whenever needed.

Department of Emergency Management Director Willie Bence expressed preliminary concern about whether there will be adequate PPE available here, should the case count continue to increase.

My-My-My-My Corona

Image: WA Department of Health

Reflections about our own experience with COVID-19:

KPTZ DJ host Dick Keenan and his wife, Kate, a public health retiree, share their experience after Dick was diagnosed in August with COVID-19. They recount their surprise at the diagnosis, and why it’s important to know the symptoms of COVID-19 and seek medical advice. In addition, they worked with the Jefferson County Public Health nurses to inform their few contacts, and used technology to trace their whereabouts during the period when Dick may have been the most likely to spread the infection. Dick experienced a very mild infection and Kate tested negative, as did all their contacts.  

While it takes a particular constellation of circumstances to become infected, we’re reminded that continued adherence to public health practices to keep us all safer through the winter, is worth the effort. 

On Monday November 16, at 5:40pm, tune in to learn more about the Coronavirus pandemic, in this informative rebroadcast of reflections about this personal experience with COVID-19.