Clallam coronavirus outbreak grows to 15 cases

One of Clallam County’s eight new COVID-19 cases confirmed Tuesday brings an outbreak at an unnamed long-term care facility up to 15 people.

The remaining new cases were contracted through travel and household contacts, said Dr. Allison Berry Unthank, Clallam County health officer. Jefferson County confirmed one new case on Tuesday; the person was a contact of a prior confirmed case, said Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer.

Eight residents and now seven staff members — the seventh reported Tuesday — have contracted COVID-19 at the Clallam County facility that remains unidentified. County health officers say that they will not identify businesses with outbreaks unless they cannot get cooperation with them in contact tracing.

The outbreak is under investigation by Clallam County Public Health.

Schools

On Tuesday, Locke had a video call with the school district superintendents in Jefferson County as the districts work on returning students to the classroom.

Brinnon School District is returning to four days in person on Monday, while the other districts may return to more in-person learning beginning in mid- to late January, Locke said.

“I’m feeling that we’ve learned a lot about keeping schools open in this state, even with high levels of COVID-19 in the community,” Locke said.

“So, we think we have the capability of doing that in Jefferson County and the educational well-being of students is just among our very highest priorities.”

Both health officers are concerned that the number of cases will surge soon because of Christmas gatherings. If they do, it should be known by the end of this week or next week, Berry Unthank said.

“We haven’t any significant surge yet,” she said.

Vaccines

While the state has yet to outline who will be included in Phase 1B for COVID-19 vaccinations, health officials in both counties are working on plans for that phase.

Both counties continue to work through Phase 1A of vaccinations of health care workers, at-risk first responders and long-term care facility staff and residents.

Both hope to have the first round of shots completed within the next two weeks, with the second shots starting to be administered next week and the week after in Jefferson and Clallam respectively, said Locke and Berry Unthank.

The Phase 1A group, although large, is fairly easy to take care of since health officials are able to contact the place of work.

That won’t be the case for 1B, Locke said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices — which is comprised of immunization and disease experts — recommended Phase 1B include frontline essential workers and people older than 75, Locke said.

However, the state had not announced by Tuesday if it would adopt that recommendation — although it is expected it will — and the state has not defined exactly who classifies as a frontline essential worker.

Health officers hope the governor’s office will announce specific guidelines for 1B by the end of the week.

Clallam County Public Health is in the preliminary stage of planning mass vaccination clinics starting at the end of January for Phase 1B. But those plans are contingent upon who is included in 1B and how to keep people separated so as to avoid a large gathering of people, Berry Unthank said.

So far this month, Clallam County has confirmed 220 cases, about 29.9 percent of the 736 the county has confirmed since March, according to Clallam County Public Health data.

Jefferson County has confirmed 49 cases of COVID-19, about 22.4 percent of the 219 the county has confirmed since March, according to Jefferson County Public Health data.

Fifty-two COVID-19 cases were active as of Monday in Clallam County, with two patients hospitalized and one in the intensive care unit. Jefferson County had 11 active cases.

The test positivity on the Peninsula — the percentage of tests returned positive — was 4.9 percent in Clallam County for Dec. 12-26, and 3.33 percent in Jefferson County for Dec. 21-27.

Jefferson County is in the state’s moderate-risk category with a case rate of 62.7 per 100,000 population for the two weeks prior as of Monday.

Clallam County is in the state’s high-risk category with a case rate of 122 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Tuesday.

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