Jefferson County would have had nearly a hundred residents die from COVID-19 if the county had matched the national average of the disease’s death, Deputy Public Health Officer Dr. Thomas Locke …
Jefferson County would have had nearly a hundred residents die from COVID-19 if the county had matched the national average of the disease’s death, Deputy Public Health Officer Dr. Thomas Locke said Monday.
Locke shared the sobering assessment during the county commissioners’ weekly pandemic update. He said the county’s low death rate to COVID was due to the extraordinary effort of health care workers and others in containing the transmission of the coronavirus, which included COVID tests, vaccination clinics, and other efforts.
“I don’t know if people fully realize what an extraordinary job we did. The death rate in Jefferson County today — 29 people have died,” Locke told commissioners.
If the county would have matched the average death rate seen across the country, he said, “that number would have been 98. So three times as many.”
Locke acknowledged the comparison was not an accurate calculation, due to Jefferson County’s aging population.
In the U.S., 16 percent of the population is over 65 years old. In Jefferson County, Locke noted, 38 percent of the population is over 65.
COVID-19 case rates continue to climb across the county, and have gone up 53 percent. Locke said hospitalizations are also on the rise.
Washington state currently is about 15th on the list of states in terms of COVID activity, he added, and cases are up 37 percent. Statewide, hospitalizations are up 27 percent.
“And unfortunately, we’re starting to see deaths increase again in Washington state,” Locke said.
Washington is averaging about eight COVID deaths per day.
“We passed a grim milestone in the COVID pandemic last week, where we exceeded 1 million known deaths in the United States,” he added. “Globally, the official number is 6.3 million. But the World Health Organization estimates it’s probably twice that much, at 15 million or more.”
The disease has hit some communities harder than others.
“Each of those deaths is a unique story. But as we look at all of them we can see patterns that have emerged,” Locke said.
“We know that three quarters of these deaths were in people who were 65 years of age and older. We know that Black, Hispanic, and Native American populations were disproportionately represented. They had almost two times the risk of death as their white counterparts.”
And we know that a lot of these deaths could have been prevented. This is really the most tragic statistic of all,” he said.
Locke noted a study released last week by the Brown University School of Public Health and Harvard that estimated 318,000 people would not have died from COVID if the U.S. population had been fully vaccinated when the vaccine became available.
“And that’s almost one out of every two people who died after the vaccines became available. That is a tragedy that I scarcely have words to express,” Locke said.
Jefferson County reported 3,912 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in the county since March 2, 2020. There were 187 active cases in isolation.
Locke said two people remain hospitalized in Jefferson County due to the disease.
Earlier during Monday’s commissioner meeting, a member of the public had raised concerns about the health impacts of wearing masks.
Locke discounted the claim, noting that people who work in healthcare have worn masks without health problems.
“We’ve been wearing masks forever and you know, we don’t see surgeons dropping over unconscious during surgery, or anyone having adverse effects. It’s just not an issue,” Locke said.
Commissioner Kate Dean, who recently tested positive for COVID, said she wished there was a way to talk about the varying impacts of the coronavirus, as talk continues about “mild” cases of infection.
“We talk about mild disease. As someone who suffered through a really, really tough two weeks of mild COVID — it is miserable,” Dean said.
“Mild disease makes it sound like it’s not a big deal,” she added. “It’s a big deal and I’m still, you know, on a number of medications and trying to kick the last of a secondary infection. I worry that when we call it ‘mild disease’ it makes it sound like it’s not really hard. It is,” Dean said.
“COVID is a very serious disease, even it is so-called mild form.
“It may be mild in the sense that it’s not sending you to the hospital. But this is a systemic, vascular disease. It impacts blood vessels and the heart and the kidneys and the nervous system,” Locke said.
“It’s one of the more severe diseases that a person can get. And our bodies have to fight very hard to get rid of it,” he continued. “It exhausts and it gives us fevers, and can keep us bedridden for one to two weeks. So we should never diminish how bad a disease this is.
“And that’s not even looking at the issue of long COVID, where we think 10 to 30 percent of people can have symptoms that persist beyond the duration of the acute illness itself,” Locke said.
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