PACIFIC COUNTY — The coronavirus claimed the lives of five more Pacific County residents in the past week, while new cases continued to be spread throughout the county during what’s easily been the most sustained outbreak of the entire pandemic.

Pacific County Health and Human Services Director Katie Lindstrom confirmed that the covid-19 death toll sat at 27 as of Sept. 20. Two of the most recently reported deaths included individuals in their 30s and 40s, Lindstrom said.

As of Sept. 20, a total of 1,748 cases have been reported in the county since the pandemic began, up 68 over the past week. Five more hospitalizations have also been reported, and the case rate per 100,000 people over the past 14 days was 785 on Sept. 19, down from 933 on Sept. 13.

While the highest case rate of last November’s rush of cases was higher than it has been during this summer’s onslaught, Lindstrom said the duration of this wave has made it by far the most difficult surge the county has faced during the pandemic. The case rate in Pacific County has been higher than 700 for more than a month straight, and hasn’t dropped below 400 — the previous high for the first seven months of 2021 — for almost two months running.

“This is definitely our longest sustained peak. We’re not going up, but we’re not really going down. It’s the highest it’s been for this period of time, ever,” Lindstrom said.

After a pair of cases among 7th grade students at Hilltop Middle School shut down in-person learning for the entire class last week, Lindstrom said about one-third of the class got tested at a clinic the health department put on in coordination with Ocean Beach School District. Every one of the 31 students who participated in the clinic tested negative, Lindstrom said, as did several teachers who also got tested.

Vaccination push continues

The pace of vaccination among younger county residents continued at a solid pace through the first half of September. The vaccination rate rose by 1.7% among 12-17 year olds, 2.1% among 18-34 year olds and 1.8% among 35-49 year olds. The rates rose just 0.7% and 0.5% among 50-64 year olds and those aged 65 and older, respectively, although their overall vaccination rates still remain higher than that of younger generations.

As the vaccination rate among younger people in Pacific County continues to rise at a solid pace, a newly released state report details just how much more protected vaccinated millennials and Gen Z-ers are from covid-19 than their unvaccinated counterparts.

According to a real-world report released last week by the Washington State Department of Health, unvaccinated 12-34 year-olds in the state are six times more likely to get covid-19 and a whopping 30 times more likely to be hospitalized with covid-19 compared to fully vaccinated 12-34 year-olds.

On Sept. 20, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that a lower dose of its coronavirus vaccine was safe and stimulated a robust immune response in children aged 5-11, meaning the two-dose regimen could become available for younger children by Halloween.

The companies still must submit full data to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which they are expected to do in the next couple of weeks. FDA scientists will then study the data for several weeks to ensure if it’s safe and effective before making a recommendation on whether to authorize the vaccine for emergency use.

Last week, an FDA advisory committee voted to recommend emergency use authorization of a booster shot of Pfizer’s vaccine for people 65 and older, as well as those at high risk of severe illness. The committee voted against recommending authorization for all Americans 16 and older, saying they wanted to see more safety and efficacy evidence from the company before making booster shots broadly available. The FDA is expected to make a final decision on booster doses sometime this week.

In Pacific County, the first-dose vaccination rate over the past week increased from 54 to 54.5%. Over the past month, 25% of the county’s confirmed cases have come from fully vaccinated people, but the fully vaccinated comprise just 10% of covid-related hospitalizations in the county over that span.

A list of upcoming vaccine clinics throughout Pacific County can be found at www.pacificcountycovid19.com.

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