Four more virus cases in Clallam County

Clallam County had four new confirmed COVID-19 cases Friday and Saturday, July24-25, while Jefferson County continues to avoid new cases.

The total number of cases in Clallam County is 78. The county had one new case confirmed Friday, a man in his 50s, and three new cases Saturday. Clallam County Health Officer Dr. Allison Unthank said she did not have gender or ages yet on Saturday’s three new cases.

Jefferson County has gone for 10 consecutive days without a new case. It has been sitting at 50 cases since July 15.

Unthank discussed Friday the free testing drive in Forks for people wanting COVID-19 tests. The drive is from 1-5 p.m. today at Forks High School, 261 Spartan Ave.

Unthank said people who can get tested are those who have some symptoms of any illness or who recently have traveled out of the Olympic Peninsula area or people who have had visitors from outside the Olympic Peninsula.

Unthank said this event is free to people, even if they don’t have insurance.

Unthank said data that has come into the health department is showing a large number of local cases have been contracted at parties and other get-togethers.

“The primary driver of infections is gatherings,” she said.

Unthank also said people should not be overly worried about tourists in the area because generally tourists don’t have extended close contact with local residents.

Only one Clallam County case is known to have come from a tourist, Unthank said, adding that out-of-county transmission is mostly coming from people getting together with family and friends.

“I understand the concern about tourists, but tourists are not the source of infection at this point,” she said. She did stress that people should avoid traveling around the state and country if they can.

“Non-essential travel is not recommended. Now is not the time for that. Travel at this point is quite dangerous,” she said.

Unthank was optimistic that with what is now known about COVID-19 and how it spreads, the virus can be controlled. She said efforts already undertaken have kept the number of cases in the county reasonable.

“Unlike the beginning of the response, we know now how to beat this. We have a shot to beat this virus,” she said. “We have the power to turn things around.”

She said those measures include avoiding gatherings or keeping gatherings to fewer than five people, wearing masks as much as possible and washing hands.

Unthank also reiterated her position that she believes it will be safe to reopen schools locally if educators take protective measures such as social distancing and personal protection equipment.

“We have a shot at reopening businesses and schools if we keep our numbers down,” she said.

Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke thinks that residents of that county appear to be doing what is needed to avoid new cases. But, he cautioned not to read too much into Jefferson’s positive news yet.

“You need a minimum two-week interval before you make conclusions,” Locke said. “(But) it suggests that people are being careful.

“Hopefully, people are seeing that this (virus) is real,” he said.

On Saturday, the state secretary of health’s face covering order was expanded to require face coverings in any indoor setting outside of a person’s home and not just public buildings. It also expands the outdoor requirement to non-public settings when people can’t maintain 6 feet of distance from non-household members.

This includes common spaces in congregate living settings, such as common areas in apartment buildings condos, fraternity/sorority houses, assisted living facilities and other similar places.

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