PACIFIC COUNTY — Long Beach Peninsula communities have taken it on the chin for much of this current wave of covid-19 cases in Pacific County. But as the virus continues to surge elsewhere in the county, the peninsula is experiencing a slight — and hopefully lasting — reprieve over the past couple of weeks.
Weekly data tracked by the Pacific County Health and Human Services Department shows that more than 50% of about 270 coronavirus cases reported in the county from July 1 through Aug. 18 were of residents who list a peninsula address as their permanent residence. But from Aug. 18 to Sept. 1, only 35% of about 200 reported cases in the county were peninsula residents.
According to the 2020 Census, residents of the roughly 50-square-mile peninsula make up about 47% of the total Pacific County population.
The overall number of cases tied to peninsula residents also dipped in recent weeks. The 58 known peninsula cases reported by the county health department from Aug. 18 to Sept. 1 is the fewest cases over a two-week span for the area since the 46 cases that were reported from July 21 to Aug. 4. And the 17 peninsula cases reported in the most recent week, from Aug. 25 to Sept. 1, are the fewest reported in a single week since the 17 cases from July 21 to 28.
Meanwhile, the situation in the rest of the county continues to look dire. Led by a huge surge of cases among Raymond residents, 104 cases were reported in non-peninsula communities from Aug. 18 to Sept. 4 — the highest number of cases reported over a two-week stretch during this current wave of infections, topping only last week. In fact, the number of newly reported cases over the most recent two-week period for the rest of the county has gotten worse in every single update provided by the county since the beginning of July.
County health director Katie Lindstrom confirmed that the bulk of cases in the past few weeks are coming in people who don’t live on the peninsula. But with large crowds of visitors flocking to the coast each weekend, she said it’s hard to truly know just how much transmission is taking place on the peninsula, even if cases have appeared to drop among residents.
As of Sept. 1, 1,514 coronavirus cases have been reported in Pacific County, up 61 cases from the previous week. Ten more hospitalizations were also reported from the previous week, bringing the county’s pandemic total to 74. The case rate per 100,000 people over a two-week period was 790, down slightly from 823 the week before. More recent figures for this week were not available in time for the print deadline because of the holiday weekend.
Vaccinations tick up for teens, younger adultsThe past month has been a relatively strong one for vaccination efforts in Pacific County, after a serious slowdown to begin the summer.
As of Sept. 1, 53.3% of all county residents have received at least one covid-19 vaccine dose, up from 52.7% a week ago. Nearly 48% of the county population is fully vaccinated, which ranks 15th out of Washington’s 39 counties and is fifth among 17 counties that have a population below 50,000 people.
The number of Pacific County residents receiving their first vaccine dose tripled over the previous month, rising by 3.3% overall from Aug. 1 to Sept. 1. From July 1-31, the vaccination rate in the county jumped by just 1.1%.
The threat posed by the Delta variant is undoubtedly one reason why more people have opted to get vaccinated in recent weeks, and the county’s rise in vaccinations coincides with when local cases really started to surge. Other possible motivators include recent vaccine mandates put in place by the state for school and healthcare workers, as well as the Food and Drug Administration fully authorizing Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine two weeks ago.
While all age groups in the county have seen their vaccination rates pick up over the past month compared to the month before, the fastest growth was seen in younger people. From Aug. 4 to Sept. 1, the first-dose vaccination rate rose by 3.9% among 12-17 year olds, 4.1% among 18-34 year olds, 5.1% among 35-49 year olds, 3.3% among 50-64 year olds, and 2.2% among those 65 and older.
Younger people’s level of vaccination has lagged badly behind their elders ever since the vaccines became widely available, and even after a productive August the vaccination rate among 18-34 year olds and 35-49 year olds in Pacific County is 41.8% and 50%, respectively. Among 50-64 year olds and people 65 and older, their respective vaccination rates are 56.7% and 78.2%.
The vaccination pace picking up among the county’s younger residents is an encouraging sign, considering the increased threat of hospitalization and even death the Delta variant has proven to pose for younger people than earlier strains of covid-19. A teenager and two people in their 20s have been hospitalized by the virus in the past couple of weeks in the county, with one of the individuals in their 20s dying from covid-19 complications.
According to the county health department as of last Wednesday’s data update, there have been 105 breakthrough cases among Pacific County residents in 2021 who were fully vaccinated when they tested positive — meaning 0.9% of people fully vaccinated in the county have tested positive for covid-19. About 11% of all of the county’s cases in 2021 are of people who were fully vaccinated.
For a full list of upcoming vaccine clinics throughout Pacific County, visit www.pacificcountycovid19.com.