Clallam and Jefferson counties are putting quarantine and isolation systems in place in case there is an increase in COVID-19 cases when the state loosens its “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order early next month.
Jefferson County will be using hotels and motels for COVID-19 patients or people awaiting test results who don’t have a home or family or friends who can help take care of them.
Meanwhile, Clallam County is leasing a building from the Port of Port Angeles near William R. Fairchild International Airport.
One new case was reported in Clallam County this past weekend, a woman in her 20s who is believed to have contracted the virus out of the county.
It was the first positive in Clallam County in more than a week, bringing its total to 15.
There were no new cases reported this weekend in Jefferson County, which has a total of 28 reported cases.
Jefferson County Health Officer Tom Locke said county health officers participated in a two-hour conference call Sunday morning. One of the main topics was preparing for an expected increase in COVID-19 cases when Gov. Jay Inslee lifts stay-home restrictions.
The Stay Home, Stay Healthy directive is in place until May 4, although Inslee allowed some construction workers to return to the workplace on Friday.
“We expect to see an increase in cases,” Locke said. “It’s inevitable.”
Locke said the peak in cases per day in Washington appeared to be in late March, when more than 500 cases a day were being reported statewide.
The state is now seeing about 200-300 new cases per day.
Locke said if the state could keep cases down to those levels per day even after restrictions are eased, “that would be a success.”
One thing local health departments will need to do is find a way to quarantine people who either don’t have housing, don’t have anyone to take care of them or don’t want to expose family members who might be in high-risk populations, Locke said.
“It’s an extraordinary challenge to build a system,” he said. “Jefferson County has been planning for this for some time.”
The county will use motel and hotel rooms to house people who need to be isolated. He said some first responders have already been housing themselves in motels and hotels because they are at an elevated risk for contracting COVID-19 and don’t want to expose their families.
Clallam County Undersheriff Ron Cameron said the 1010 Building at the airport is not necessarily for the homeless but for people “who can’t find a location” to quarantine or go into isolation.
Meals will be delivered to people in quarantine, and there is a laundry at the site, he said.
Locke said it’s important to send the message that people in quarantine are not being punished.
“In fact, people going into quarantine are heroes,” he said. “They have to be treated as people making a sacrifice for the community.”