The following is a summary of the presentation made by Dr. Tom Locke, our local Public Health Officer and Willie Bence, Director, EOC, Jefferson County, during the Public Health briefings at this week’s Board of County Commissioners meeting.
Today, April 19th, 2021, our local Public Health Officer, Dr. Tom Locke shared his assessment of the pandemic in Jefferson County and answered questions submitted by KPTZ listeners.
- Nationally, new COVID-19 cases have slowed, but continue to increase, with a five% rise over the previous two weeks, with an average of 67,000 reported cases a day. The true number is most likely double the number of confirmed cases. The hot spots remain in the upper midwest and east coast, with Michigan reporting exponential numbers out of 26 states reporting increased cases.
- Washington reported a 38% increase over the last two weeks, with hospitalization also increasing by 41%, primarily among 40-50 year olds. The case per 100,000 population now stands at 191, nearing the RoadMap to Recovery threshold for reverting to Phase II, if suppression of the virus is not driven downward. Death rates have increased by 42% compared to the previous two weeks, which means about 8 residents die each day, which is higher than the rates from a year ago in the same time period.
- As of this report, Jefferson County had 10 cases each for the last two weeks, raising our new case rate up to 62 per 100,000 population and 374 cases to date. Clallam and Kitsap have also seen new case rates rise, 114 per 100,000 and 147 per 100,000, respectively. The increases are driven by the continued spread of more infectious variants from California and the UK, with confirmed cases of the UK variant in Kitsap and Clallam. This wider spread of the variants impacts transmission within households, schools and work sites and has health department staff on alert. Genetic sequencing is occurring on about 5% of all nasal swabs and this figure is used as a basis for modeling the approximately incidence of these new variants in circulation. What used to take about three weeks to sequence, now takes about a week.
- One 60-year-old resident, with co-morbitities, died this last week at Jefferson Healthcare from COVID-19 complications.
- Increasing new case rates means that exposure to the virus increases, particularly in dense urban areas, with a proportion of cases stemming from the more infectious strains. The trend is that more cases are being diagnosed among younger residents. The greatest increase is among the 20-39 year age group. The settings that pose the most risk continue to be indoor dining and sporting events, fitness centers, and gyms – worksites as well as large gatherings in poorly vented indoor spaces among unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated persons.
- Vaccination progress continues, with 4.4 million Washington residents receiving at least one dose and 24% fully vaccinated. Jefferson County residents receiving at least one dose stand at 54%, with 40% fully vaccinated. If all residents under 18 years of age (3,776) are subtracted from the total population, then the adult population eligible and receiving at least one dose stands at 61%, with 45.2% fully vaccinated. This progress toward herd immunity could mitigate the magnitude of a fourth(4th) wave for this community.
- Caution still needs to be practiced when considering activities which mix non-household members together. When the adults are fully vaccinated, they still may have young people in their family who can not yet get the vaccine, so continue to practice masking and distancing when in a closed setting for a brief period, or for longer periods when you can gather outside.
- The Johnson & Johnson vaccine remains on hold. The CDC and FDA are meeting to determine recommendations, as the hold may soon be reversed with some restrictions for use in those with clotting disorders. It is anticipated that the two other vaccines currently approved will be a substitute vaccination choice. Even with the temporary hold, many individuals are preferring to wait for the J&J vaccine.
- Pfizer recently made an application for an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) after initial results showed efficacy and safety in a clinical trial for 12-15 year olds. It is expected if an EUA is granted by the FDA, this age band will be able to be vaccinated during the summer. Moderna is also in trials for this age group and expects to seek EUA status soon. Children 11 and younger can expect completion of clinical trials later in the year or the first quarter of 2022 and vaccine availability soon after this time frame.
- Jefferson Healthcare and QFC Pharmacy have Pfizer vaccines for 16 and 17 year olds in anticipation of special clinics for this age band. Check their websites for appointment availability as well as special clinic times.
- Following CDC guidelines, for those with full vaccination status, indoor gathering of a small book club can resume without masking. However, remember that 1 out of 20 fully vaccinated individuals may not have benefited from the inoculation and still pose a risk to others if infected. Breakthrough infections after full vaccination series have been documented and continue to pose a risk. When among the general public, indoor settings, and crowds, continue to follow CDC recommendations for everyone’s safety.
- Anyone can register for a CDC national program called VSAFE. Anytime after a vaccine, a person can register and report side effects to a database intended to track the experience you had with your vaccinations and invites feedback from a population standpoint versus a clinical trial. This is especially important as the new methodology of vaccine development aggressively prompts your immune system to respond without an actual COVID-19 infection.
- Those fully vaccinated can also ride in a car together unmasked. It is still a good idea to get ventilation to avoid other infections as well.
- If you enter an indoor space which allows up to 50% capacity, but see that the capacity is higher than that, you may need to refrain from entering and leave. Although under Phase III, capacity at 50% may be permitted, it may not mean it is actually safer, especially in the light of greater spread and infectiousness of the newer viral strains. Currently there is no enforcement of these guidelines, unless an employee makes a complaint to the state labor board.
- Past recommendations for rigid surface cleaning, washing fruits and vegetables are not the primary transmission route for the COVID-19 virus. Transmission by fomites (inanimate objects) is less likely than respiratory droplets. Cleaning and sanitizing highly touched surfaces by multiple persons still is advisable to prevent other infections.
- A condition called ”long hauler” syndrome occurs after a COVID-19 infection leaves a person with prolonged and sometimes debilitating effects of an initial infection, even if that person initially tested negative. Early in the pandemic, testing was limited, so even if you wanted the test, it may have not been available. Nearly 30% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 continue to experience a range of symptoms related to long hauler syndrome. It is more likely than not to have antibodies to COVID-19, no evidence of a positive PCR, yet report long hauler symptoms long after the initial infection.
- Even with a known COVID-19 infection, which may confer limited immunity, all individuals should be vaccinated.
Willie Bence, Director, Department of Emergency Management(DEM):
- The Jefferson County Public Health and the Department of Emergency Management (DEM) vaccination clinic at Chimacum Schools this past Saturday provided vaccines for 662 residents. Second doses were given in the morning and first doses in the afternoon. There will be another clinic again this next Saturday, April 24, with nearly 200 first doses available to be scheduled at this reporting, as well as the Jefferson Healthcare drive-thru clinic during the week. Go to the Jefferson County Public Health website for information on where and how an appointment can be made. Residents can also call the DEM COVID-19 Vaccine phone line at 360-344-9791 for assistance, Monday-Fridays, 9-5pm.
- Volunteers are continuing to staff all the clinics sites and are greatly appreciated by the community. Volunteers are still needed for traffic control and need to be able to be on their feet for several hours as well as being willing to work in any weather