Clallam prepares for some in-person student instruction

County County reports four new COIVD-19 cases; Jefferson reports none

Four new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed among household contacts of prior cases in Clallam County, while Jefferson County held steady with no new cases for 13 consecutive days.

Clallam County’s new case rate is 20 cases per 100,000 population for the past two weeks as of Thursday, while Jefferson County’s rate held at 3.13 per 100,000.

The new cases in Clallam County don’t pose a risk to the community, as they were already in quarantine due to exposure to other members of their household who also tested positive for COVID-19, said Dr. Allison Unthank, Clallam County health officer.

“It’s not very concerning for the community as a whole,” she said Thursday. “Certainly, of course, we like to avoid transmission in any setting, including in the household, but it is not as concerning as additional separate cases in the community.

“We know those folks, we expect them, we know that they were exposed, and we know that they are already in quarantine.

“So when we see those cases, they don’t have any other contacts except themselves.”

If confirmed infections remain low, in four days, Clallam County will have been under the rate of 75 cases per 100,000 for four weeks, which allows for some in-person schooling to begin.

However, school districts aren’t planning to start to bring students in until Oct. 5, as the teams continue to work out logistics and plans, Unthank said.

The first students to return to the classrooms in some form in Clallam are primarily expected to be elementary students, with more grades added later on if the case rate stays low. But it depends on the individual district, and the districts will still be using some form of hybrid learning of online and in-person, Unthank said.

“Schools are an issue that causes a lot of passion in every direction when people are talking about sending kids back to school,” she said.

“We’re really trying our best that any of our decisions are guided by science, and we try to communicate those decisions as clearly as possible.”

Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke continues to work with the districts in Jefferson, which are all operating on a hybrid model of in-person and online learning, he said.

The weather is already shifting into the rain and wind that is common in fall and winter, and with it, outdoor dining that has helped support restaurants in a safer way will become more difficult, while regulations of inside seating are expected to stay the same with limited capacity, Locke and Unthank said.

“It makes sense to keep outdoor seating available as long as possible, including into the winter months,” Locke said. “Using rain protection, heaters, it is always going to be safer to be outside than indoors.

“Indoor seating in restaurants is always going to involve risks,”he added.

“We think it’s one of the riskier things that people are doing these days, just because it involves people sitting close together and they have their masks off.

“So, if someone you’re having dinner with has COVID-19 and doesn’t know about it, you’re really at risk of being exposed to it while you’re dining.”

Clallam County has had 241 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since March, with 11 active cases and one death, according to Clallam County Public Health data.

Jefferson County has had 71 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since March, with no active cases and no deaths, according to Jefferson County Public Health data.

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