The Delta variant of COVID-19 is not being kind to Kitsap County youth.
Along with that, deaths are higher than ever, with 36 in September compared with the previous high of 33 in January. Countywide there have been 200 deaths since the pandemic began in March of 2020. A third of the deaths have come in the past three months, the Kitsap Public Health District reported.
The case rate for those ages 5-18 is almost 311 per 100,000 people, compared with the general population of 200. The highest rate is for those ages 30-39 at 399 per 100,000. There were 161 hospitalizations between Sept. 1-24, with one-fourth of them younger than age 50. From Sept. 20-26 there were 606 overall cases, with 19 on Bainbridge Island and 101 in North Kitsap.
As of Sept. 21, KPHD has been investigating 38 active outbreaks: 11 in long-term care facilities; four in congregate living situations; two in healthcare facilities; four in schools; three in workplaces; three in community events; and 11 in government sites.
Dr. Gib Morrow, the district’s health officer, gave updated information Tuesday at the health board’s meeting, saying there are now outbreaks at 11 schools with 50 children infected and closures of eight classrooms.
He recommends parents get vaccinated and have their children vaccinated as soon as they are eligible. People under 50 who are unvaccinated are 20 times more likely to be hospitalized, he said. They also are more likely to get COVID and transmit it.
Morrow said while the county is not requiring vaccinations for its workers or businesses, he does recommend voluntary compliance. “Getting employees vaccinated is the best way to keep businesses open,” he said.
Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson said her government already is required to be vaccinated and 90% have complied. She added that the federal government is expected to mandate it for government or businesses with 100 employees.
“We would likely fall under that order,” Port Orchard Mayor Rob Putannsuu said. “I could see us doing this before” it’s required.
The health board listened to an hour of public comments, and there were 299 comments in the chat feature of the Zoom meeting.
Most of the comments were against mandates, even though the board had said it wasn’t going to have a mandate.
One caller in favor said she likes supporting restaurants that mandate it.
Callers called a mandate discriminating, against free choice and that they cause injuries and death while there are other safer treatments. One caller said hospitalizations are skewed because many aren’t informed how to deal with it at home. Others said there’s a lot of misinformation out there, on both sides.
Candace Fiedler of Poulsbo said staff shortages that were mentioned could be caused by the mandates themselves. She said medical workers can be forced out of their jobs “in order to maintain body autonomy.” She said travel nurses are having to fill the void. They don’t have to be vaccinated, make double the pay and are “causing hostility in the workplace.”
Many chat comments were upset with the board itself, commenting on their smirks, frowning and eye-rolling. Many said the board’s minds were made up, and they weren’t even paying attention.
After the public comments, the commissioners agreed they don’t want to put mandates on businesses, but they could make the move concerning government workers before the feds require it.
Erickson said she doesn’t believe in COVID passports to get into businesses.
Bremerton Mayor Greg Wheeler said: That “might affect their income stream. We don’t want to add to that.”
The health district says getting vaccinated, wearing masks indoors and in crowded outdoor situations, staying home when sick and getting tested for COVID when appropriate are the best ways to keep it from spreading.