County cases reach record-high COIVD-19 numbers

Jefferson County entered the state’s high-risk category for COVID-19 on Monday, while Clallam County reported the largest daily increase in cases since the pandemic began, adding 16 new infections of the coronavirus.

Clallam County is on the edge of entering the high-risk category, at 71 cases per 100,000 during the past two weeks, said Dr. Allison Unthank, the county health officer.

“We are experiencing the surge now,” Unthank said.

Unthank and Clallam County Public Health officials are currently investigating four outbreaks. A long-term care facility has nine infected staff members and two patients, and health officials are assisting the facility with staffing, Unthank said.

The other outbreaks include one connected to a church, another connected to a healthcare facility and the one connected to a social gathering, she said.

Unthank won’t name facilities that are under outbreak investigations unless the facility makes a public statement.

Jefferson County has confirmed 123 cases of COVID-19 since March, while Clallam County has reported 348 cases in the same time period.

Jefferson County’s case rate jumped to 100.31 per 100,000 population for the past two weeks, putting it in the state’s high-risk category, said Dr. Tom Locke, county health officer.

The county has confirmed 34 new cases in the past two weeks, 25 of which were in the past week, Locke said.

“We all know we’re heading into a crisis,” Locke said during his Monday briefing with the Board of Jefferson County Commissioners.

During contact tracing, the county found in 27 cases that two were contacts of other confirmed cases, two were contacts of close friends, two visited friends out of the county, four traveled out of the state, three had out-of-county visitors stay in their household, two worked out of the county, four were exposed by their extended family members, and a cluster of six friends younger than 20 got sick and also infected two household members, Locke said.

Seven total cases were confirmed between Sunday night and Monday in Jefferson County, with the three confirmed Monday still under investigation, he said.

This is the highest case rate Jefferson County has had since the beginning of the pandemic, and 4.55 percent of tests in the county returned positive in the past week, also a record-setting mark, Locke said.

“That’s the first time we’ve ever been above 2 percent in Jefferson County,” he said. “What’s really shocking is it’s much worse in other parts of the state.”

The statewide case rate is 162 per 100,000 for the past two weeks, and Gov. Jay Inslee announced the reinstatement of restrictions on retail stores, restaurants and the closure of other activities as a result, Locke said.

“That’s why the governor is acting so strongly,” he said. “It’s a very rapid rise.”

The restrictions include closing all fitness facilities and gyms, bowling centers, movie theaters, museums, zoos and aquariums. Retail stores — including grocery stores — must limit their indoor capacity to 25 percent.

Beginning at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 18, restaurants and bars are to be limited to outdoor dining with tables seating no more than five people and to-go services such as curbside pickup and delivery.

Unthank supports the restrictions as a way to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“I think they’re are a good step,” she said. “I know it’s painful, and I know it’s not anything any of us wanted to have to do.

“With the rapid rise in cases, I think it’s essential to really start cutting back on in-person — especially indoor — interactions and to send the message that ‘we all need to take this seriously starting now.’ In our community, we’re likely entering the hardest week so far in the outbreak,” she continued.

“We as a community have to come together around this very, very soon because we’ve done very difficult things before, we can do it again, and we’re certainly planning to fight this, but it’s going to be a fight, and we all need to be in it together.”