COVID-19 cases climb on Peninsula

Both health officers on the North Olympic Peninsula have blamed a recent uptick in cases on private parties.

Clallam County Health Officer Dr. Allison Unthank also said that Clallam County is “perilously close” to possibly having its restaurants closed again.

Five Port Angeles bars and restaurants had to close temporarily over the past two weeks because of possible positive cases tied to those businesses or to employees.

One of those businesses that closed, the Barhop, announced on Facebook on Saturday that it is reopening Monday.

Unthank said Friday that while most businesses in the county are doing a good job of following safety protocols, the real problem is parties and get-togethers that have caused outbreaks both in the West End and more recently in Port Angeles.

“The vast majority of businesses are following guidelines,” she said. “We’ve seen an incredible effort from businesses and their employees,” she said.

State officials are discussing possibly closing restaurants again, at least to indoor dining, in communities that are seeing a rapid growth in cases, according to Unthank.

“We don’t want to do that. We know so many people would be hurt if we have to close businesses again,” she said.

She said one metric being discussed at the state level is an infection rate of more than 100 per 100,000 over a two-week period. As of Saturday, Clallam County’s infection rate was 97.4 per 100,000.

Clallam County has had 185 total cases, with five new positives announced Saturday, all locally transmitted. A total of 45 cases are active in the county.

One Clallam County person died earlier this month after contracting COVID-19, while 139 people have recovered from the virus.

Unthank said Friday that more than 400 people in Clallam County are in quarantine at the moment because of potential exposure to people with the virus.

Parties and get-togethers with little or no social distancing continue to be the main driver of new positives, Unthank said.

A few weeks ago, the West End was seeing a rise in new cases. Now the locus is Port Angeles.

“The last two weeks, we’ve really shot up quite a bit,” she said. “We’ve certainly seen a dramatic rise in cases.”

In Jefferson County, Dr. Tom Locke said Thursday that a party at Tarboo Lake is responsible for an outbreak of two cases there.

The infection rate in Jefferson County is also on the rise, though not as dramatically as in Clallam.

The infection rate in Jefferson County is listed at 18.8 per 100,000. Locke said that number will be updated Monday and he expects it will go up to between 25 to 30 per 100,000 because of a number of new cases last week.

No new cases were reported Saturday in Jefferson County. One was confirmed Friday. Jefferson has 65 total cases and 13 active cases.

Like Unthank, Locke cited private parties as the main problem.

“This is happening all over the state,” Locke said. “People getting together are desperate to cast off the gloom of isolation.

“It’s taking its toll.”

Said Unthank: “We cannot fight COVID-19 alone. We need everyone in the community to come together

”If you’re thinking of having a party … don’t. If you’re invited to a party, politely and compassionately don’t go. And compassionately mention that now is probably not a good time to have a party,” she continued.

“It’s important for us to all reach out to our friends and neighbors.”

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