Clallam health officials prepare for school opening

Clallam County Public Health officials continue to work with the Clallam school districts as most prepare to begin some in-person education next week.

Clallam County added two new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, while Jefferson County held steady with no new cases for more than two weeks.

The two new cases were still under investigation on Wednesday. However, they are not believed to have been connected to the recent Olympic Medical Center case, said Dr. Allison Unthank, Clallam County health officer.

Jefferson County school districts started using an in-person and online hybrid model of learning in September, and most Clallam districts — with the exception of Cape Flattery School District — plan to start various hybrid models starting on Monday.

Unthank met with the superintendents and many of the nurses for the Clallam schools on Tuesday to continue the discussions and plans of the openings in regard to symptom screenings and infection prevention.

“They seemed really ready to take on the challenge and I think everybody is excited to start getting some kids in school and to work hard to make it as safe as possible,” Unthank said.

“I think one of the challenges is just that you’re dealing with so many different types of classrooms, and teaching structures all across the county.

“There’s just a whole bunch of different models all the way across the county, so just making sure that each of those classrooms and teachers and nurses and principals and superintendents knows all of the protocols and are ready to put them into practice,” she continued.

“That I think is the biggest challenge, just making sure everyone is on the same page.”

Unthank has heard complaints regarding the slow process that the districts have adopted with starting in-person schooling and slowly phasing grades in. However she said it’s necessary to do to avoid a surge in cases among school children.

She pointed to Georgia and other states that brought students back into the classroom with little COVID-19 prevention controls, she said.

“I think we’re getting very good buy-in from the schools, they’re very interested in doing this right and so I think they’re going to do quite well,” Unthank said. “What we’re trying to do is really quite different [from Georgia], bring back a small amount of kids and do it safely and do it well, so we don’t see a significant spike in cases.

“We’ve received many comments as to why we’re not bringing back all the other kids like they are in Georgia, but if you look at what’s going on in Georgia they’re seeing a really massive spike in cases among children proportionate to the way that they’re bringing kids back to school. So that is actually exactly why we’re not doing that here.”

Clallam County has confirmed 245 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since March, with eight cases currently active and one death, according to Clallam County Public Health data.

Clallam County’s new case rate is 20 cases per 100,000 residents for the last two weeks, the data said.

Jefferson County’s case rate remains at zero for the last two weeks and there have been 71 cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the county since March, with no active cases or deaths, according to Jefferson County Public Health data.