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.
COVID-19 cases are falling nationwide, but 2,500 deaths are reported daily. County Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry said that different areas of the County are seeing the downturn in cases at different times, with the Northeast cities leading the way. In Washington, there is a 30% decrease in cases in the last week, in both the east and west sides of the mountains. However, cases are four times the height of any previous peak, with 2,500 cases per 100,000. In Jefferson county, current cases are 2,874, with a case rate of 743/100,000. One death was reported today for a total of 26 during the pandemic. Our percent positivity is 21%. Dr. Berry anticipates case rates to continue to decrease through February and March based on current mitigation measures. “I really want to encourage everybody to hang on a little longer,” Dr. Berry said. “There is light at the end of the tunnel and it’s closer than it has ever been. We are very likely to be able to remove many mitigation measures in March or April. So we’re going to be lifting the proof of vaccination order in March most likely, unless we see our cases drop significantly even before then. And likely we will see a lifting of mask mandates this spring as well. The exact timing of that is still being determined at the local and state level.”
Dr. Berry reported that Pfizer pulled out from FDA review of vaccines for those under 5 years old. They did not see enough efficacy with their very low-dose product. The next plan for the manufacturer is to move forward with trials of three doses for this age group to see if they get significant immune response. Moderna is also participating in clinical trials for this age group and results are expected later this spring/early summer.
The final decision on the state masking mandate is up to the governor but the State’s Health Officers will advise him. We have a local mandate for Jefferson and Clallam counties. Dr. Berry’s preference is to move with the state. “I think it will be very hard to maintain a local mask mandate alone if we if we are the only county left doing it,” she said. “Which is part of why it’s so important that when the governor picks a case threshold, that we be a part of making sure that that’s a safe case threshold.”
Dr. Berry said if you are on immunosuppressive medications, have active cancer, or have a genetic immunodeficiency, you qualify for a fourth dose of the vaccine, “and we recommend you get that fourth dose.”
With the advent of at-home test kits, Dr. Barry noted that “we are undercounting” because most cases are not being reported. She urged those who test positive to contact Public Health with this important information.
Submit your Public Health questions to Dr. Allison Berry and to Willie Bence by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. 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).