COVID-19 claims third life in JeffCo

Eleven new cases over weekend

Posted 4/21/21

A third person in Jefferson County has died of COVID-19, Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke announced Monday.

The third fatality to coronavirus in the county late last week happened at Jefferson …

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COVID-19 claims third life in JeffCo

Eleven new cases over weekend

Posted

A third person in Jefferson County has died of COVID-19, Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke announced Monday.

The third fatality to coronavirus in the county late last week happened at Jefferson Healthcare — the first coronavirus death at the facility. The patient had been critically ill, Locke said, but the coronavirus caused the man’s death.

The resident, a man in his 60s, passed away Saturday.

“COVID was, we believe, the cause of death. Had it not been for the COVID infection, that person would have likely survived,” Locke said.

The death comes amid a week marked by a steady increase of coronavirus cases nationwide and the temporary pause of the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

In Jefferson County, health officials said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rose by 11 over the weekend.

Of the 11 new cases, six females and five males tested positive for the coronavirus.

Seven of the infections were traced to mid-county residents, with Port Townsend and the south county area (Quilcene, Brinnon, and West Jefferson) both seeing two new cases each.

According to Jefferson County Public Health, six of the residents who tested positive were in their 50s. Three others were under the age of 20, while the two others were people in their 30s and 40s.

The total countywide number of positive COVID-19 tests in Jefferson County Monday was pegged at 374.

Ten people who may have been exposed to the coronavirus remain in isolation, and the health department said 26 residents have been hospitalized from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. 

NUMBERS ON THE RISE

Locke, during his weekly COVID-19 update to county commissioners Monday, said the number of cases continues to rise across Washington and the country, though “the rate has slowed a bit.”

Michigan is a hotspot, he noted, with 16 of the 17 current outbreaks located in the Great Lakes State.

“It’s overwhelming the hospitals,” Locke said, and added that the spread was in its exponential pace of growth.

Other places, take note.

“No state wants to become the next Michigan,” Locke said.

That said, COVID-19 is actually increasing in 26 states, Washington included.

“And fairly dramatically,” Locke told commissioners during Monday’s COVID-mandated videoconferencing meeting.

Washington state has seen a 28 percent rise in cases over the past two weeks. 

“We’ve had a 41 percent increase in hospitalizations,” he added.

The age group affected mostly: 40 and 50 year olds.

The death rate in the Evergreen State is also going up, a change from a month or two ago when there were “virtually zero deaths,” Locke said.

Still, the death rate is lower now than it was a year ago, and Locke said that was mainly due to the vaccination of older people and others at high risk.

A total of 5,394 people in Washington have died from COVID-19 through Monday, according to the Washington State Department of Health. Another 21,493 have been hospitalized, and the overall number of confirmed coronavirus cases was 386,920 on April 19.

Locke told county commissioners Monday that outreach efforts are underway to get residents of all ages vaccinated, now that eligibility for shots has been expanded to include most of Jefferson County’s population. Last week, all Washington residents over the age of 16 became eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine starting April 15.

A vaccination clinic for 16 and 17 year olds — called “Teen Spirit” in honor of the song by Nirvana — has been set up for Wednesday to give the Pfizer medicine to teens.

“We’re moving as rapidly as we can to vaccinate as many people as we can,” he said.

More than 4.4 million doses of vaccine have been given in Washington state, and Locke said 24 percent of the state’s population is fully immunized against COVID-19.

BEST IN STATE

In Jefferson County, 54.5 percent of the population has received at least one dose of the vaccine. Almost 40 percent of all county residents have been fully immunized.

The immunization numbers for the county, Locke added, are the highest in the state.

Late last week, Jefferson Healthcare canceled the COVID-19 vaccination clinic after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said use of the vaccine should be put on pause due to rare but serious side effects from the drug.

The Washington State Department of Health also announced a statewide halt in the use of the J&J vaccine April 13.

The state Department of Health said the pause was “taken out of an abundance of caution based on the appearance of a rare but serious side effect including serious brain blood clots” in six women under the age of 50 who had been given the J&J vaccine.

The pause came as more than 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine had been administered in the United States, including roughly 149,000 doses in Washington state.

“The safety and well-being of our community are our number one priority,” Jefferson Healthcare said in an announcement last Tuesday after when the J&J clinic was canceled.

Jefferson Healthcare said scheduling for the Wednesday, April 21 clinic had also been paused.

People who signed up for the April 21 clinic will keep their appointments, according to Jefferson Healthcare, as the hospital awaits further guidance from the CDC.

TIME TO RESCHEDULE

Jefferson Healthcare also said people scheduled for the April 15 or April 21 J&J clinics can move their appointments to the Moderna clinic planned for Friday, April 23.

“Administration of the Janssen Vaccine is being paused out of an abundance of caution as potential side-effect information is reviewed,” Locke said in last week’s announcement. 

“Current information suggests there may be a one-in-a-million risk of a rare blood clotting disorder similar to what has been seen with certain medications,” Locke said. 

“Once this new information has been fully reviewed, new safety guidelines will be issued,” he said.

“We continue to be a race with a variant-driven fourth wave of the pandemic and we need all residents to avoid high risk behaviors until vaccines can be fully deployed,” Locke added.

Federal health officials said the risk of blood clots for people who have been given the J&J vaccine more than a month ago is very low.

“Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director of the CDC and Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in a statement Tuesday. 

“COVID-19 vaccine safety is a top priority for the federal government, and we take all reports of health problems following COVID-19 vaccination very seriously. People who have received the J&J vaccine who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination should contact their health care provider,” they said.

PUSH FOR SHOTS

Local leaders continued to press county residents to get vaccinated.

During Monday’s meeting of the Port Townsend City Council, Mayor Michelle Sandoval noted the rise in COVID-19 cases and the passing of a third Jefferson County resident to coronavirus.

She hailed the many residents who had gotten one, or both, shots.

Her second, Sandoval said, was scheduled for this weekend.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” the mayor said. 

“l know we’re all getting tired of this,” Sandoval said, recalling recent times when she had to go back to retrieve a face mask. 

The community needs to work together to get back to what we had, she said.

“Let’s all remember to stay vigilant,” Sandoval said.

City Manager John Mauro agreed, and added he got his first shot this weekend.

Another mass vaccination event is planned in Jefferson County Saturday, and during a check Monday, Mauro said appointments were still available.

“It’s easy; it’s fast,” he said of getting vaccinated.

“Grab an appointment if you haven’t gotten one yet,” Mauro said.

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