- Nationally, new COVID-19 cases have increased by 38% in the last two weeks, a pattern driven by recent holiday travel, repeated in many states. On January 7, Washington recorded more than 4,000 new cases, up 27% from the previous two weeks. Hospital admissions due to COVID-19 have increased slightly, but have not reached capacity.
- As of today, Jefferson County now has 255 cases, with 122.26 cases per 100,000 population, an increase from the previous week. Case positivity has increased from 4% to 4.335% this week. Neighboring Clallam County has 113 cases per 100,000 population with 5.7% new case positivity. Both counties are among the lowest in both metrics in Washington. However, travel to and from this county remains increasingly more risky as the rise in statewide cases continues.
- New regional cohorts created by the state tie our individual county data to improvements in four (4) key metrics among four (4) neighboring counties before progression to the next re-opening phase occurs. The state calculates progress based on the data individual counties report in a plan entitled Road to Recovery Plan.
- Kitsap County, with the largest population,will have the biggest impact in our cohort with respect to progressing to Phase 2 of re-opening. Progress can be followed on the state DOH website.
- Jefferson County has received 3 shipments of COVID-19 vaccine from the federal government and has administered 76% of the doses, compared to only 30% of delivered doses administered nationwide. Remaining vials are being held for the 2nd dose for persons in the 1A priority category.
- Jefferson County will now begin vaccinations for the 1B priority category, starting with the eldest (85 and up) among us. A drive-through clinic, by appointment, will begin January18, with approximately 550 doses to be given that day. TriCare Pharmacy has received the Moderna vaccine, but has limited supplies, with more pharmacies applying to receive vaccines. About 7,000 county residents are in the 70 years of age and older category in 1B and Jefferson Healthcare will administer these vaccines as they become available from the state. While supplies now are limited, Dr. Locke expects this situation to be temporary until the new administration takes office. Availability for appointments and clinics will be announced on the Jefferson Healthcare and Public Health websites.
Answers to questions submitted by KPTZ listeners:
- Citizens are encouraged to listen to their recorded messages left by unknown callers in case it is a message left by public health contact tracers with important medical information. Citizens can also register with “Notify WA” which is a cellphone app developed for contact tracing to see if you have been near a person who now tests positive for COVID-19. About 25% of the Washington residents are enrolled.
- COVID-19 restrictions are not a reason to restrict use of the community warming center for the homeless. It requires vigilant infection control practices, as the homeless population is on the lowest tier of Phase 1B for vaccinations.
- Increased COVID-19 cases here are NOT likely due to the new coronavirus strain. But it is inevitable that we may have this strain spread here because it is more conducive to spreading easily.
- Safer travel beginning in the summer is dependent on the supply of vaccine, and the numbers of persons vaccinated for the greatest protection. Travel with the United States may be safer than internationally.
- Advice on gathering with friends after completed vaccinations is premature at this time. Five percent (5%) of persons vaccinated will not develop immunity and we must follow the public health recommendations until risk of infection is mediated by mass vaccination.
- Forty cases in our youth is a lower percentage than in other counties, telling us that our 0-19 population has been acting responsibly. Ages are spread across the range, with our first incidence of infection in a 2 months old.
- No case of influenza A or B have been reported in Jefferson County, with 2 cases of Influenza B reported by the state to date. Public health guidelines for COVID-19 are having an impact on this seasons influenza case numbers.
- Confirmed COVID-19 cases are defined by a positive test result with the molecular PCR test and probable cases are defined by a positive result with less-sensitive, quick antigen tests.
- The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) projection for the peak in deaths late January reflects an increased rise of the population at risk of complication when the general prevalence of COVID-19 cases increases.
- Gyms may now open on appointment basis only as specified in the “Road Map to Recovery” cited above with some restrictions specified depending on the square footage of the gym to accommodate distancing guidelines.
- All COVID-19 strains are captured by the currently available coronavirus tests. Epidemiologists are tracking the spread of new strains with sophisticated, but limited genomic testing.
- Essential workers listed in 1B, over 50 years of age may be dependent on verification of their status from their employers. Verification is not the purview of the health department and needs another mechanism, which has not been established as yet.
- Licensed massage workers are considered 1A priority category, which is defined as those who work physically close to clients, and tey can be vaccinated now.
- Currently, limited supplies of vaccines are expected to increase once the Biden/Harris administration is sworn in, with an aggressive rollout of supplies to the states.
- Because the rollout to vaccinate residents and staff in congregate living settings has been slow to start, Jefferson County has used some of it’s vaccine supply to vaccinate staff at our local facilities. Current supplies of vaccines are now being used for residents.
- Clallam County is starting 1B vaccinations this week courtesy of the Jamestown Family Health Clinic run by the S’Kallam Tribe, who are responsible for vaccinating 1A priority residents in eastern Clallam County.
- Jefferson County residents should use Phase Finder and information from the local hospital to monitor availability and time for vaccination eligibility. Dr. Locke wants everyone who makes an appointment to keep it as the supply we have right now has fragile handling limitations.
- The category 1B (50+ years of age in a multigenerational household) definition is being sent back to the state to be reworked. The intent is to specify a population of elders that are more at risk in these settings.
- Healthcare providers should not mix and match different vaccines to get to two doses. With increased funding in the recent relief bill, we will stick to the instructions of the vaccine producer according to the FDA licensing agreements.
Department of Emergency Management Director Willie Bence reported:
- He is gratified by the response from retired medical professionals stepping up to assist with the vaccine rollout plans.
- A possible emergency waiver for current non-licensed retirees from the state is beginning to be considered. Some retired practitioners who have not renewed their license could assist in the observation area in mass vaccination clinics.
- Registration is the only activity at this time in preparation for mass vaccination clinics down the road. Email any inquiries to [email protected].
- Thanks to the Bainbridge Island retired medical core for assisting with vaccinations in Hadlock.
Remember, the next Public Health update will occur on Tuesday, January 19th due to the Martin Luther King Holiday on Monday.
Submit your Public Health questions to Dr. Tom Locke by emailing [email protected].