Travel a major source of new infections on northern Olympic Peninsula

PORT ANGELES — Travel continues to be a source of new cases of COVID-19 on the North Olympic Peninsula, and...

PORT ANGELES — Travel continues to be a source of new cases of COVID-19 on the North Olympic Peninsula, and local health officers continue to urge residents to get vaccinated before taking trips.

Local transmission rates in Clallam and Jefferson counties are declining. But case rates remain high in other parts of the state, posing a risk of importing cases when unvaccinated people return from the higher-risk areas, officials said.

Clallam County confirmed two new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, both connected to out-of-county travel, according to Dr. Allison Berry, Clallam County health officer.

Jefferson County held steady with no new cases, according to county public health data.

While places in Washington state and the U.S. continue to have high case rates, international travel also poses a higher risk, as many countries still have low numbers of vaccinated people, Berry said.

“If you’re traveling to other countries, it’s important to remember that the vast majority of people there are unvaccinated, because they haven’t had access to the kind of vaccines that we have,” she said. “We’re not seeing a lot of local transmission, which is really hopeful on our end.”

Virus transmission in Clallam County has been between unvaccinated community members, as none of the six confirmed breakthrough cases — people who had received their final vaccination shot at least two weeks prior to infection — have infected someone else, Berry said.

Jefferson County has had five breakthrough cases, Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer, has said.

“A lot of people assume that all of us are vaccinated, but about half of (Clallam County) are unvaccinated, and that’s really where we’re seeing transmission at this point,” Berry said.

She recommends that those hesitant about being vaccinated for COVID-19 talk with their health care provider or call the public health departments to ask questions. It’s also a good idea to ask about the experiences of friends who have been vaccinated, she added.

The state has a vaccination locator at https://vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov, which allows users to see where appointments are available and which vaccine will be used. While all state residents 12 and older are eligible to be vaccinated, anyone younger than 18 can receive only Pfizer’s vaccine.