COVID restrictions loosen, but caution shouldn’t, officials say

Many are stretching with relief, breaking out of the limitations that have corralled them for nearly a year now that state has moved into Phase 2 of the Roadmap to Recovery plan, but county health officers continue to urge caution to prevent a resurgence of COVID-19 cases.

Businesses, team sports and other places for public gatherings are able to offer more now, but that doesn’t mean the pandemic is over.

While case rates have been falling nation- , state- and countywide, the rates are falling from record highs, with virus activity still high, said Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer, during his briefing Tuesday morning with county commissioners.

“We’re back to where we were in early November,” he said.

“We want to be back where we were in summer.”

Locke recommended that people still wear face masks while with non-household members, and that the masks be well-made with two or more layers of tight-knit fabric that light doesn’t shine through, fitting flush over the face and covering the mouth and nose.

Double masking with a disposable blue surgical mask under a cloth mask is also a good idea for better protection and transmission prevention, he added.

Face masks are in addition to social distancing and frequent hand-washing, even for those who have been vaccinated.

“Whether we have a fourth surge or not is up to us,” Locke said.

Clallam County Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry agreed with Locke.

“We got so used to being in the high-risk category that everything feels good, and certainly we’re moving in the right direction, but we are still in the moderate-risk category,” she said. “So, that means there is still virus circulating here.

“It is still very possible to get infected, especially if you’re gathering indoors and in groups and getting within 6 feet of each other,” she continued.

“It’s just important to keep up the good work. Don’t give up now. We’re very, very close, and I would hate to see us waste the progress that we’ve made.

“But, if we keep doing what we’ve been doing, keep masking, keep distancing, keep getting vaccinated as soon as you can, we can do quite well, and we can get through this.”

Vaccinations appointments for Jefferson Healthcare are being made from the hospital’s notification list, and those 65 and older who have not signed up are encouraged to do so at jeffersonhealthcare.org/covid-19-vaccine.

Due to the snow this weekend, vaccination clinics in Port Angeles, Sequim and Forks were canceled. Those affected have been contacted about their next steps, Berry said.

Port Angeles patients who were signed up to receive their second shot last weekend automatically have appointments at the same time and on the same day — Saturday or Sunday — as last weekend.

Unfortunately, those who signed up for their first shots at the Port Angeles clinic will need to make new appointments since this weekend’s clinic lacks the capacity for those patients, Berry said.

Appointment scheduling will open up again at 9 a.m. next Wednesday, Feb. 24, at vaccine.clallam.net/register. Those who must schedule by phone can call 360-417-2430, but online is more efficient, volunteers said.

All second-dose patients who were scheduled for Saturday’s clinic organized by the Jamestown Family Health Clinic were told they could come to any of the dose 2 clinics scheduled from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, Feb. 20, at Carrie Blake Community Park.

See jamestownhealth.org for more information.

Limited vaccinations also are offered at some local pharmacies such as Safeway, Costco and QFC. Locations, availability and how to register can be found at tinyurl.com/VaccineLocations.

On Tuesday, Clallam County confirmed one new case of COVID-19 — a contact of a prior confirmed case — while Jefferson County held steady with no new cases, according to county public health data.

Clallam County’s test positivity — the percentage of tests returned positive — was 1.6 percent from Jan. 30 to Feb. 13, Berry said.

Jefferson County’s test positivity was 3.42 percent for Feb. 1-7.

So far this month, Clallam County has confirmed 40 cases of COVID-19, about 4.1 percent of the 976 cases confirmed since last March, according to Clallam County Public Health data.

Jefferson County has confirmed 24 cases of COVID-19, about 7.32 percent of the 328 it has confirmed since last March, according to Jefferson County Public Health data.

Sixteen COVID-19 cases were active as of Tuesday in Clallam County. Jefferson County had 18 active cases.

Both counties are in the state’s moderate-risk category with a case rate of 51 cases per 100,000 population during the past two weeks as of Tuesday in Clallam County and 65.83 cases per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Saturday in Jefferson County.

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