Virus Watch Podcasts

County Public Health Report ~ 7/05/22

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.

In her comments this morning to the County Commissioners, Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry reported that the first case of Avian Flu has been found in a flock of domestic fowl in Jefferson. Dr. Berry said that this strain is “unlikely to transmit to humans.” She said this is serious for birds, and poultry farmers in particular. “The best thing to do to protect your birds from contracting avian influenza is to reduce their mixing with other birds, particularly wild birds,” Dr. Berry said. “If you have a pond on your property and your birds are interacting with ducks and other migratory species—that’s where we’re seeing a lot of that infection happen.” The primary sign of avian influenza in your flock is a sudden die off of multiple birds. Dr. Berry said to watch for respiratory illness in your birds– if suddenly your birds are sneezing and coughing, that’s a typical sign that should raise suspicion. She recommends reporting any deaths to WSDA. Jefferson’s flock is 1 of 29 cases positively identified in the state.

We are adding 112 new cases this week. The two-week case rate is 715 cases per 100,000 people. Our current two-week case rate is within the high transmission risk range. At that level, it’s strongly recommended everyone wear a well-fitting, high-quality mask while in public, indoor places.

Jefferson County Public Health is streamlining its COVID-19 case data reporting as it transitions from an emergency response to a more sustainable and long-term approach to monitoring the virus. The first-ever weekly report published on Monday, June 27 and will appear every subsequent Monday. In addition to shifting to weekly reporting, data will now appear on an interactive dashboard designed with new data presentation software. Explore the dashboard on our website’s COVID-19 Case Information page.

Submit your Public Health questions to Dr. Allison Berry and 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.

County Public Health Report ~ 6/27/22

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.

We are adding 18 new cases this week. The two-week case rate is 979 cases per 100,000 people. This week’s new cases are the total number of cases reported to us as of Friday, June 24, 2022. Future reports will have a full week’s total of new cases. Our current two-week case rate is within the high transmission risk range. At this level, it’s strongly recommended that everyone wear a well-fitting, high-quality mask while in public, indoor places.

Jefferson County Public Health is streamlining its COVID-19 case data reporting as it transitions from an emergency response to a more sustainable and long-term approach to monitoring the virus. The first-ever weekly report published on Monday, June 27 and will appear every subsequent Monday. In addition to shifting to weekly reporting, data will now appear on an interactive dashboard designed with new data presentation software.

Availability of pediatric vaccinations for those 6 months to 5 years has been delayed due to a shipping issue. Dr. Berry said Jefferson Healthcare/ Sheridan Clinic and Public Health will offer the shots the first week in July. Call 360-385-9400 to secure an appointment at Public Health.

The free Covid mask program coordinated though Emergency Management has been discontinued. Director Willie Bence said that demand has slowed “to a trickle.” Some grocery stores still have a supply, as does DEM.

Submit your Public Health questions to Dr. Allison Berry and 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 BOCC meeting next Tuesday (due to the July 4 holiday).

County Public Health Report – 6/13/22

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. The summary below was provided by and used with the permission of Jefferson County Government.

In her weekly address to Commissioners, County Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry said there is a “plateauing of our cases overall and there isn’t the rise in hospitalizations that’s been seen in other parts of the country.” This low rate is consistent with all of the top four vaccinated counties in the state—that includes Jefferson and Clallam. Dr. Berry said the primary driver of our low hospitalizations is how vaccinated and boosted we are as a community. “If you are not vaccinated, we are still seeing severe disease and we are seeing death,” she said. Our case rates have risen slowly over the past week (to 873/100,000) but indicators point to a slowing of that rise. “I do think we are moving into a different phase of this response, where we will likely still see transmission in our community but we’re less likely to see severe disease,” Dr. Berry noted. “We have the tools we need to prevent severe disease due to COVID-19.” Dr. Berry said to continue to protect yourselves by wearing a mask in indoor settings and getting vaccinated and boosted.

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.

County Public Health Report – 6/06/22

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. The summary below was provided by and used with the permission of Jefferson County Government. Also Willie Bence, Director of Emergency Management, gave a report.

COVID-19 case rates remain high in Jefferson County, according to County Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry, but they seem to be plateauing. She told Commissioners today we have an 18% positivity rate, with a case rate of 823/100,000. There has been no surge in hospitalizations. “It’s interesting that we are seeing very, somewhat different patterns than what we’re seeing in the rest of the country,” she said. “Much of the rest of the country has experienced a surge in hospitalizations. The Northeast, the South and Midwest were really hit hard by a surge in hospitalizations. But in Jefferson and Clallam Counties, we really have not seen that. And that is most likely due to the very high rates of vaccination we have in our communities.” Dr. Berry said she’s hopeful that “we are moving truly into a more endemic phase of this virus. Now variants can always throw a wrench in those plans. But so far, we are moving into a more hopeful direction.” She recommends that everyone continue to wear masks in indoor settings.

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.

Through Science to Health ~ 5/27/22

In our final regular edition of Through Science to Health, KPTZ host Chris Bricker speaks with Dr. Christine Skorberg, Medical Director of the Women’s Health Clinic at Jefferson Health Care. While in search of a new and all-inclusive name for the Clinic, her colleague, Dr. Asif Luqman, suggested its new appelation, OB/Guyne Clinic. Dr. Skorberg discusses her philosophy of relationship-based medicine, which is centered on listening, honest conversation, and respect for patients including all races, sexual orientation, situations, and lifestyle.  She describes the panorama of care and guidance that ranges from birth to vintage years and covers the services offered at the Clinic. Chris would like to acknowledge his former co-hosts who have provided their expertise, insight, and talent at different times over the course of our program’s run: Kate Keenan and Lynn Sorensen. A big Thank You from the Heart for your earlier contributions to the show!

County Public Health Report – 5/23/22

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 Deputy Dr. Tom Locke . The summary below was provided by and used with the permission of Jefferson County Government.

Public Health Deputy Dr. Tom Locke told Commissioners this morning that COVID-19 cases are climbing throughout the U.S. by 53% and hospitalizations are going up as well. Washington is 15th on the list of states in terms of COVID-19 activity; cases are up 37% and hospitalizations area up 27%. Deaths are also increasing in the state. Jefferson’s two-week case rate is 848/100,000. Two people currently are hospitalized. The World Health Organization estimates the official global death rate to be 6.2 million. The U.S. has surpassed 1 million deaths, and Dr. Locke reported that three-quarters of these were in people 65+. Black, Hispanic, and Native American populations were disproportionally represented with almost two times the risk of death as their white counterparts. Harvard and the Brown School of Public Health computed that 318,000 people could have been saved if the U.S. had been fully vaccinated. As of today, 29 people in Jefferson County have died from COVID-19.

In Washington State, the BA.2 sub variant is the predominate COVID-19 strain. On the east coast, there is another strain – BA.2.12.1. Both of these are extremely transmissible and three times as contagious as Delta. These two covariants are partially resistant to prior immunity. The immunity derived from a vaccine or a prior infection is still very valuable but is not effective in preventing mild or moderate infection.

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.

Note: Due to the Memorial Day holiday, there will be no BOCC meetings, nor Public Health Briefings, on Monday, May 30. The next Briefings will take place on Monday, June 6. Please send any questions by Friday, June 3.

County Public Health Report – 5/16/22

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, Director of Emergency Management, gave a report. The summary below was provided by and used with the permission of Jefferson County Government.

Click here to read complete notes on the day’s briefings

County Public Health Report – 5/02/22

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 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.

County Public Health Report ~ 4/25/22

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.

County Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry today reported that although Jefferson County doesn’t have a high number of deaths and hospitalizations from COVID-19, there’s now a high transmission rate and a 9% positivity rate. About 70-90% of our cases now are found through home antigen testing. There are two small clusters in schools, numbering three cases each, that are related to unmasking in classroom settings. There has been no further spread within the schools. There is also one long-term health care facility affected in Jefferson County. Dr. Berry strongly recommends wearing the highest quality KN95, KF94 or K95 mask you can find when in public, indoor places. “I don’t go into an unmasked space without a high quality mask,” she said. She said the trigger to go back to mandatory masking would be “if we saw a rise in severe disease in hospitalization and death.” If you contract COVID-19, Dr. Berry said to isolate for 10 days. After 10 days, you are not contagious. For more information, call the hotline at Jefferson Healthcare: 360-344-3094.

Dr. Berry this morning also discussed the need for a second booster or fourth dose. She explained that it does decrease your risk of COVID-19 disease for about four weeks. But it doesn’t dramatically change the prevention against severe disease. The first booster is still providing excellent protection. She said that the vaccines we have available now “cannot prevent all infection and make it so it’s 100% you don’t get COVID-19. However, they still reduce your risk of getting COVID-19 and dramatically reduce your risk of getting very sick and dying.” Dr. Berry said one of the myths circulating is that getting COVID-19 provides a lifetime immunity. “When we look at databases of hospitalization and death from COVID-19, we’re seeing it in reinfected people and in relatively high rates when you get beyond the 90-day threshold,” Dr. Berry explained. “It really matters to get vaccinated if you’ve had a a prior infection.” She also said that if you’ve had a breakthrough infection on top of getting vaccinated, you are pretty well protected and that it is the equivalent of four doses of vaccine.“ The risk from contracting COVID-19 yourself is primarily giving it to someone else who would die,” she said.

Submit your Public Health questions to Dr. Allison Berry and 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.

Through Science to Health ~ 4/22/22

Every month, KPTZ’s Chris Bricker has been bringing you not only discussion and updates surrounding the Pandemic, but also insights and discoveries emerging from it. And, in our flurries of focus over the past few years, we’ve often forgotten to talk about the importance of Public Health in general, and about the many programs and services it provides for our community on behalf of the Common Good. This week we speak with Dr. Allison Berry, Clallam and Jefferson Counties Health Officer, who’s passion, dedication and tenacity has led a stellar staff in making healthy things happen for all of us who live in the region.

County Public Health Report ~ 4/18/22

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.

County Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry today reported local COVID-19 case rates are at 270/100,000 putting us in the higher risk zone where she strongly recommends masking indoors with a high quality mask. Our percent positivity is up to 8.5%. In Jefferson, there is an online form where people can submit a positive home test. Dr. Berry said that between 70-90% of cases reported are from home antigen tests. Here is a link to a site where you can securely report your test results: https://app.smartsheet.com/…/7146918f3f854cf6bfdfffc4f0…

The latest surge is being driven by the BA.2 variant that makes up about 75% of the positive tests in the County and the reduction in mitigation measures. People are going to stores, restaurants and school unmasked. “If we saw (hospitalizations rise) in other parts of the country, that might change our mitigations here….that’s really the trigger,” Dr. Berry said. “We’ve gotten our vaccines, we’ve gotten our boosters and so many of us had recent infection with COVID-19,” she continued. “And so between those two, we are hopeful that we can prevent severe disease.”

Influenza is on the rise in Jefferson. “Now is a really good time to get vaccinated,” Dr. Allison Berry explained. “It’s important to remember that while influenza is less dangerous than COVID-19, it still can be quite dangerous, especially people for people who are very young, for people who are elderly, or for people who have underlying chronic conditions.” Influenza vaccines are available from pharmacies, the local health office, and your physician. Dr. Berry said masking will help keep transmission of the flu in check.

County Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry addressed the need for the second booster shot. “There is an option for a second booster which is a fourth dose for anyone 50 and over in the United States,” she explained. “The data around that booster is that it is safe…It’s not clear yet that it’s needed though, because we are still seeing excellent protection from three doses.” She stressed that the most important thing to do to prevent risk of severe disease is to get vaccinated and get that first booster for a total of three doses for most. “If you are immunosuppressed, that fourth dose is really critical,” Dr. Berry continued. “If you’re taking immunosuppressive medications, if you have a genetic immunodeficiency, if you’re getting treated for cancer, or if you have had a cancer in the past, it’s been successfully treated. All of those, folks. Really good idea to get that fourth dose. Everyone else. It’s not clear yet how necessary it is. It’s certainly a reasonable option.” Fourth doses are available locally in our healthcare system, at pharmacies, and at Jefferson County Public Health.

Submit your Public Health questions to Dr. Allison Berry and 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.

County Public Health Report ~ 4/11/22

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.

Jefferson’s COVID-19 cases have reached a plateau in the moderate range which indicates a recommendation for masking in indoor settings, according to County Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry. The Health Department is monitoring the Omicron BA.2 variant which is a more contagious version than its BA.1 predecessor but not more severe. She advised that this version, which is now the dominate one, is moving though western Washington’s I-5 corridor. She expects it will arrive in Jefferson in the next couple weeks. Masking, vaccination and good quality air ventilation in indoor spaces are the tools that are working to keep the rate of infection down.

Dr. Berry reported that approval has been given for a second booster for everyone 50 years old and older in the U.S. According to Berry, it is “safe” and a “very reasonable choice to get an additional booster….The area where we have a little less data is really on the necessity of an additional booster at this time,” she said. We’re still seeing very good protection against severe disease from three doses.” Dr. Berry said that if you are over 75 with multiple underlying comorbidities, it might be a good idea to go ahead and get boosted. COVID-19 vaccines are available at pharmacies and at Jefferson County Public Health, as well as through your health care provider and Jefferson Healthcare.

Director of Emergency Management (DEM) Willie Bence said there are no plans to scale up the mass vaccination clinics that were previously held. The DEM is focused on provide any vaccines to those who are homebound or have mobility issues. Call 360-344-9791 for more information. Test kits are available though the health department and libraries. In south county, antigen tests are available at the fire departments. Test kits may also be purchased online.

Submit your Public Health questions to Dr. Allison Berry and 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.

County Public Health Report ~ 3/28/22

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.

COVID-19 case rates are rising in Jefferson since the masking mandate was lifted, reported County Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry. With a two-week case rate of 65/100,000 and 2% positivity, the numbers are projected to go up. So far, no cases of the B2 variant have been reported and it is not projected to be the dominate strain here.

During her report to the Commissioners, Dr. Berry announced that Jefferson County has the highest number of boosted residents in the state, overtaking San Juan County. Dr. Berry said there is no data yet available as to whether the general population will need a 4th dose of vaccine. She said that those over 65 may be eligible if approval is given. Any high-risk individual with underlying immunity issues or severe disease is eligible for a second booster at this time. Dr. Berry strongly recommends that they receive all 4 shots.

Director of Emergency Management Willie Bence said the mass vaccination clinics that were so successful have wrapped up and local pharmacies are now able to meet the demand. He said there are no plans for 4th dose clinics at this time.The Department’s focus is partnering with public health to reach out to those homebound individuals who have limited mobility and offer booster shots. Call the hotline at 360-344-9791 and leave a message.

Submit your Public Health questions to Dr. Allison Berry and 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.

County Public Health Report ~ 3/21/22

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.

County Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry today said case rates in Jefferson have reached the low risk threshold. Jefferson’s case rate is 71/100,000 with a 2.9% positivity rate. This information now will be updated Tuesdays and Fridays. She said most people can safely unmask in indoor spaces if they are at low risk for severe disease. For those who are at a higher risk for severe disease – which Dr.Berry points out is a “decent proportion” of our community – she suggests continued masking until we get below 50 cases per 100,000 threshold. She believes that will occur by next Friday.

Dr. Berry addressed the BA 2 sub-variant of COVID-19 – a more contagious version of the Omicron variant – that now is prevalent in the UK. Cases there are up 79% and hospitalizations are up 40%. She believes the relaxed mitigation measures combined with waning immunity have caused BA2’s transmission to spike. The UK is considering a fourth vaccination. The FDA Advisory Committee is reviewing data and on March 30 will make a recommendation about another dose in the U.S. Jefferson does not have any of the BA 2 sub-variant, however, Clallam has had its first case. In Washington, about 9% of the specimens are BA 2.

Director of Emergency Management Willie Bence didn’t address COVID-19 during his weekly address to Commissioners. He spoke of the high temperatures expected this summer due to climate change. He discussed the possibility of cooling centers being opened in Brinnon, Quilcene, Chimacum and Port Townsend. In order to stay informed, the NIXEL alert system texts important local information during an emergency. Bence said everyone should be getting the alerts. Cooling centers will be one bit of info pushed out on the system if the situation warrants. To sign up: www.jeffcoeoc.org. The link is on the right side of the page at the top.

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.

County Public Health Report ~ 3/14/22

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.

Public Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry said that COVID-19 cases continue to fall in Jefferson County. Total case numbers are 3,130, putting the case rate at 189/100,000, dipping below her desired threshold of 200/100,000, Our percent positivity is 7.4 which is also downtrending. Jefferson is no longer in the high risk category, moving to medium risk for COVID-19 transmission rates. Dr. Berry is recommending mask wearing in indoor settings until the case rate is below 100/100,000. This is especially important in crowded indoor spaces where vaccination status is unknown. Masking is also recommended for those who are in a high risk group or who are immunocompromised, on cancer treatments, or taking immunosuppressive medications. She anticipates a small surge in cases in a couple weeks because the mask mandate has been lifted. She does not anticipate a super-spreader event like the previous ones. For the long term, Dr. Berry believes COVID-19 will become a more severe version of the flu that moves in a seasonal pattern. She said that summer will be a time to enjoy the outdoors, but anticipates next fall/winter there could be a spike in case numbers as the population retreats back indoors.

Director of Emergency Management Willie Bence today said the EOC emergency response to COVID-19 has turned the corner and is now in an ongoing maintenance mode. Meetings with Public Health and informational briefings with leadership and partners will remain in place on a weekly basis until the end of this month. The large mass vaccination clinics have been scaled back. Stores are being supplied with masks for the public. He had high praise for the many volunteers who turned out to help with the response. “We had hundreds of people come forward over the past few years and come out with a response for my department, whether it be doctors or nurses who are actually administering shots,” Bence recalled. “We have logistics volunteers who help with putting up parking cones and helping with traffic control. They’re helping set up and clean up after clinic, things like that. So we are absolutely going to maintain those those volunteer resources.” Bence said he has plans to establish the “Medical Reserve Corps,” a volunteer program composed of doctors and nurses who can be called upon during a future pandemic or emergency event. The next few months will be a time for the EOC to conduct focus groups and hold conversations about what worked and didn’t during the response to the pandemic. A report to the Commissioners will be provided when the information becomes available.

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.

County Public Health Report ~ 3/07/22

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.

Public Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry today said Jefferson County’s COVID-19 case numbers continue to drop. She announced that our documented case rate is 385/100,000 with a 10% positivity rate. “This week, we are transitioning from the pandemic phase of our response to the endemic,” Dr. Berry said. “In the endemic phase, we are transitioning to a period where where don’t think COVID-19 is going to overwhelm critical parts of our infrastructure.” She said our society will be able to function with this level of disease right now. She noted Jefferson is moving toward “not mandating” masks in indoor spaces, but rather “recommending them.” The reason: our case rates are still relatively high. “So right now, in Jefferson County, if you walk into a room with 25 people and you’re all unmasked, there is a 17% probability that one of those people has COVID-19,” she explained. “And so that’s why we still recommend you wear a mask because that’s a pretty high probability that someone has COVID-19. When we see those case rates continue to go down, when they get to less than 100 cases per 100,000, that probability goes down to 5%. And so that’s why we think it’s reasonable to start unmasking when we get to that rate.”

Director of Emergency Management Willie Bence said DEM efforts are focused on an after-action review of Jefferson’s COVID-19 response. His team is restocking KN95 masks in some stores and will continue as long as the state program is making them available. If you are looking for a booster dose, are homebound, or have limited mobility, call 360-344-9791 and leave a message. Bence said his team is “happy to come and pay you a visit.” Vaccinations are increasing at about 1% a week. There is a rise in vaccinations for kids in our community. Currently 53% of middle- and high school-aged kids are fully vaccinated.

Submit your Public Health questions to Dr. Allison Berry and 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.

County Public Health Report ~ 2/28/22

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, Director of Emergency Management, gave a report. The summary below was provided by and used with the permission of Jefferson County Government.

During Dr. Allison Berry’s weekly update today, she noted that although Jefferson case decline is slowing, our case rate is improving. It stands at 525/100,000. Percent positivity is still high, at 13%. “When we do lift the mass mandates, in addition to recommending masking generally, I strongly recommend high quality masks for those who are at high risk of severe disease,” she said. “So if you have underlying medical conditions, if you’re over 65, it’s really, really important that you have a high quality mask – a KN95 or a KF94 or full N95 if you can tolerate that, That’s going to be really important in indoor spaces.” She also cautioned those who are unvaccinated: “It’s also important to remember that any of us who are unvaccinated are still at high risk of severe disease and so we would recommend that those who have not gotten vaccinated wear a high quality mask in indoor spaces, and that includes children.”

Following Updated CDC Recommendations, the Jefferson County public health order requiring masking in indoor, public places will be rescinded earlier than planned. That order will now lift on Friday, March 11 at 11:59pm, the same time the State of Washington lifts its masking order, also ahead of schedule. The date changes follow updated guidance the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued last week. “I am making this difficult decision because it is frankly untenable to maintain our mask mandate longer,” said Dr. Allison Berry, Health Officer for Jefferson County. “However, I continue to strongly recommend masking in indoor spaces until our case rates reach a safer threshold.” The current two-week case rate in Jefferson County is 525.00 per 100,000 people. Dr. Berry recommends reaching a case rate of fewer than 100 cases per 100,000 people over a 14-day period before unmasking in indoor spaces. She recommends high-risk individuals wait until that rate drops below 50. The health order that requires bar and restaurant patrons 12 and older to be fully vaccinated if dining indoors will lift on March 11 as well. Dr. Berry encouraged the community to support the decision of any businesses that choose to maintain a masking policy.

The COVID-19 response by Emergency Management is ramping down, according to Director Willie Bence. Vaccinations are readily available at local pharmacies. Masks are being delivered to local businesses and grocery stores including the Food Co-Op. For more information and inquiries about helping those with mobility issues, please call the hotline at 360344-9791.

Submit your Public Health questions to Dr. Allison Berry and 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.

County Public Health Report ~ 2/28/22

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, Director of Emergency Management, gave a report. The summary below was provided by and used with the permission of Jefferson County Government.

Click here to read complete notes on the day’s briefings

County Public Health Report ~ 2/22

The following is a summary of the presentation during the Public Health briefings at this week’s Board of County Commissioners meeting made by Dr. Tom Locke. Willie Bence, Director, Director of Emergency Management, gave a report. The summary below was provided by and used with the permission of Jefferson County Government.

Deputy Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke this morning said COVID-19 cases continue to drop across the country and on the Olympic Peninsula. In Jefferson, there has been Omicron activity, but it is down 8% over the past two weeks, putting us at 618/100,000. ”This is a turning point in the pandemic,” Dr. Locke said, noting that now there is a transition from emergency containment mode to a more sustainable and less disruptive one. He noted WA State will be lifting its statewide masking mandate on March 21. Jefferson will lift its mandate at the same time. Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry earlier announced she will rescind the order requiring proof of vaccinations for restaurants and bars as of March 11. “We always will have some COVID-19 around at least for the next several years,” Dr. Locke admitted. “And it’ll occur in waves and really how it behaves will have a lot more to do with the virus than anything else. As we look to the future, not only are new variations or variants possible, they’re really to be expected. If we’ve learned anything from this last two waves, it’s to expect the unexpected.” Dr. Locke spoke about a new Omicron variant, BA2. Noting that it “is not a harmless subvariant,” health officials in Japan believe this strain is more transmissible than Omicron. Dr. Locke feels a wave of BA2 in this county will not occur.

Department of Emergency Management (DEM) Director Willie Bence said that the mass vax clinics that have been held for the past year have ended. If anyone is looking for a vaccine or other information, refer to the Jefferson County Public Health website or call DEM at 360-344-9791. He said most pharmacies have a supply of all of the vaccines. As for masks, Bence said K95 and KN95 masks have been pushed out the grocery stores, pharmacies, libraries, chambers, and all County food banks. Public Health also has them. For more information, call DEM.

Submit your Public Health questions to Dr. Allison Berry and 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.

County Public Health Report ~ 2/14

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, Director of Emergency Management, gave a report.

Click here to read complete notes on the day’s briefings

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 next Tuesday’s meeting (because February 21 is a holiday).

Through Science to Health ~ 1/28/22

In this special edition of Through Science to Health, we revisit two graduates of Port Townsend High School who have chosen the medical profession for their careers. We spoke with both of them back in November of 2020. 
Jesse Maupin began his work as a Hospitalist at the University of Wisconsin Medical Hospital during the thick of the COVID-19 Pandemic two years ago. He’s now working as a Fellow in Geriatric Medicine at the University of Washington Hospital. This summer he joins the staff at UW Medical Center Northwest.
Will Bringold is still a Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Fellow at University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison. In addition to his clinical duties, he takes care of people in the ICU with both COVID and non-COVID related severe illness. He’s in his final 5 months of training and will be starting his position at Tacoma General Hospital this summer.
Jesse and Will bring their frank and sincere perspectives on their experiences during the last few years as Residents and then Fellow during these difficult times.

County Public Health Report ~ 1/24

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. The summary below was provided by and used with the permission of Jefferson County Government.

Dr. Berry there is still a critical shortage of COVID-19 testing. She said although distribution of test kits ordered from the federal government and the State Department of Health will be delayed by up to two weeks, this should not prevent anyone from following protocols. Here’s Dr. Berry’s directions on what to do:
– If you’re sick and you can’t get tested for COVID-19, the most important thing to do is stay home while you’re sick for five days from when your symptoms started, because it’s very possible that it’s COVID-19.
– If you can’t get tested, you can’t know for sure that it’s not COVID-19 in that you’re shedding that virus at work.
– If you can’t get tested, stay home for five days when you’re sick.
– If you’re exposed but you can’t get a test, stay home for five days if you are unboosted.
– If you’re boosted, you can continue to work. That’s kind of the simplest way I can break down the guidance around isolation and quarantine.
– If you test positive for COVID-19, the safest thing to do is to stay home for 10 days from when symptoms started. If you test negative, then you can go back as soon as your symptoms have resolved.

Submit your Public Health questions to Dr. Allison Berry by emailing [email protected]ptz.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.
Note: normally the BOCC meets 4 times a month and then skips the 5th week, so the next Public Health Briefing is scheduled for Monday, February 7.

County Public Health Report ~ 1/18

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. The summary below was provided by and used with the permission of Jefferson County Government.

County Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry this morning said the number of coronavirus cases is expected to peak toward the end of January which means the news reported over the next couple weeks will most certainly indicate a dramatic rise in cases. In Jefferson County, our current case count is 2,123 with a case rate of 1,460 per 100,000. That is the highest we have ever seen in our region with a 22% positivity. Only three people currently are hospitalized with COVID-19, and 22 deaths have been reported over the period of the pandemic. Clallam’s count is 7,890 with a case rate of 2,034 per 100,000.

She said although Jefferson is faring better than other areas on the peninsula, “the problem is the sheer number of people with COVID-19 who are needing to be seen in the ER or in the hospital. It is beyond straining the healthcare system, it’s nearly buckling under the pressure of all those patients who need medical care, particularly for emergency department medical care,” Dr. Berry said. “Jefferson isn’t experiencing that degree of emergency thanks to the the sheer number of folks in our community who are vaccinated, However, the challenge is when all of our neighboring health care systems are buckling under the pressure of COVID-19 it has a ripple effect on us because we can’t get our very sick out for care.”

Dr. Berry reports that nationwide, there are “incredibly high rates of transmission,” with approximately 800,000 cases diagnosed every day in the United States. Hospitalizations are still rising and, unfortunately, deaths are as well. Currently, there about 150,000 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in the United States.

Dr. Berry offers the following advice on what to do if you test positive using a home test: Stay Home.
(1) Isolate for 10 days – from when symptoms begin or 10 days from testing positive.
(2) Call Jefferson County Public Health for guidance: 360-385-9400.
(3) Tell the people that you’ve been around since you were infectious that they have been exposed (from two days before your symptoms begin through 10 days after).
(4) Check the Jefferson County Public Health Facebook page or website for more information.
(5) If you do not have a home test available, there is still drive-through testing at Jefferson Healthcare, and tests are available at the County Health Department while supplies last.

Here are Dr. Berry’s comments about young and healthy people, COVID-19, and risks: “I do hear from some folks who are young and healthy, who are even vaccinated. who say, ‘Hey, you know, I’m not going to die of COVID-19 so I’m just gonna live my life.’ And that’s true. You’re not Your probability of getting hospitalized or dying from COVID-19 if you’ve been vaccinated is low. But the big thing that we worry about is the risk that you could bring COVID-19 to someone else. And the biggest reason why people who are young and healthy should be thoughtful about transmitting COVID-19 is because we don’t want you to give it to someone else who could then get sick and die. So not enough to just measure your own personal risk. You want to measure the risk of everyone around you, in your family in your community who could get sick because of you.”

Submit your Public Health questions to Dr. Allison Berry and 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.

County Public Health Report ~ 1/03

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, Director of Emergency Management, gave a report. The summary below was provided by and used with the permission of Jefferson County Government.

During the public health update this morning at the BOCC meeting, County Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry said COVID-19 has been rising dramatically though the nation and in the region. In Jefferson County, there is a significant rise in cases. Our current case rate is 416 per 100,000. As of today, we have 1,589 diagnosed cases. Dr Berry said it is reasonable to assume that if you are diagnosed with COVID-19 in Jefferson, it is most likely Omicron. That is the majority variant in our region now. “What we know about the Omicron variant is that it is incredibly infectious,” Dr. Berry said. “It’s very, very transmissible and is a little bit less severe than the Delta variant but not as mild as many people are making it out to be.” She explained that Omicron is 20% less severe than the Delta variant, and the Delta variant was 50% more severe than the original COVID-19 virus. If you are unvaccinated, the Omicron variant is actually more severe than the original COVID-19 virus. “It is not the cold, it is not the flu,” she said. Dr. Berry said for those who are vaccinated, Omicron has a low rate of severe disease. But if you are unvaccinated, it can still be incredibly severe and can lead to hospitalization and death given how how transmissible it is. She said we are very likely to see our hospital system being overwhelmed again. Jefferson Healthcare CEO Mike Glen, along with Tracie Harris, MD and Tina Toner MD, told Commissioners that the hospital is experiencing staff vulnerabilities. And moving patients from one hospital to the other has been critically impaired. The emergency department has increased patient load from 200 to 250 last month. And the Express Clinic normally sees 150 patients; currently it’s 225.

Submit your Public Health questions to Dr. Allison Berry and 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.

Through Science to Health ~ 12/24/21

In this year-end edition of Through Science to Health, Dr. Joseph Mattern, Chief Medical Officer for Jefferson Health Care, joins KPTZ Host Chris Bricker for an informed discussion that helps us navigate the information overload surrounding COVID-19 and the Omicron variant. He emphasizes the Common Good when it comes to being mindful over the holidays, and gives us some optimistic encouragement as we roll responsibly through the next few months.