The Clallam County health officer does not plan to recommend an application to move into Phase 3 of the state’s Safe Start plan this week.
Instead, Health Officer Dr. Allison Unthank said she plans to tell the Clallam County Board of Health it should remain in Phase 2 of the COVID-19 restrictions due to two recent outbreaks of the virus locally, including one at Olympic Medical Center.
“Based on the latest cases, I highly recommend we do not move forward,” she said.
Two OMC employees have tested positive since Friday (June 26), and a third case not tied to OMC brings the county’s total to 38.
Meanwhile, Jefferson County, which reported one new case Sunday, was scheduled to consider applying for Phase 3 on June 29. Jefferson also has recorded 38 cases as of early Monday, making a total of 76 on the North Olympic Peninsula.
One person at OMC tested positive late last week and notified the hospital while going into quarantine, according to an OMC press release.
In a follow-up with contact tracing protocols, it was discovered that a second employee in the same department tested positive, the medical center said.
Unthank said on June 28 that OMC officials have been busy contacting both patients and employees who may have come into contact with either person.
Unthank said that, while some OMC patients should expect to be contacted about possible exposure, the medical center has been diligent in taking precautionary safety measures, such as using personal protective equipment, to minimize the risk of exposure to the virus.
“We do feel confident that OMC is doing a good job,” Unthank said.
“We understand that patients and employees identified through contact tracing to have been in contact with these health care workers will be concerned. However, we do this out of an abundance of caution,” said Darryl Wolfe, interim chief executive officer for OMC.
OMC officials said the risk of transmission to patients and caregivers is low because of extensive precautions.
“What we are looking at very closely and emphasizing strongly is renewed vigilance and adherence to universal masking and social distancing requirements among our employees when they are with other employees, in particular,” Wolfe said.
Unthank said the latest cases are all locally transmitted, showing the virus is in the county. That underscores the importance of people continuing to maintain social distancing and wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 locally, she said.
“This virus is here,” Unthank said.
Phase 3 would allow some additional businesses to reopen such as gyms. It would also allow libraries, museums and bars to reopen, and it would allow more capacity in restaurants.
Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke said he is in favor of allowing libraries and museums to reopen, but he is concerned about allowing bars to reopen. The county could apply for modified Phase 3 restrictions that would exclude bars.
“The thing we’ll look at most seriously is bars,” he said.
Locke said the most recent case in Jefferson County appears to have been transmitted out of the county.
“This one very clearly has some Seattle links,” he said.
Locke reiterated Unthank’s point that wearing masks is critical to stopping the spread of COVID-19.
“People have to get serious about masking right now,” he said. “The excuses and partisanship have to end.”