Local officials: Reopening should be taken slowly

North Olympic Peninsula health officials endorsed the reopening of certain outdoor activities Tuesday as one new COVID-19 case in the two counties was confirmed.

A Clallam County woman in her 20s was exposed to the new coronavirus in King County, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in Clallam County to 17.

“She left the county and got it and came back home,” said Dr. Allison Unthank, Clallam County health officer.

“She’s isolating at home right now.”

Nearly all of Clallam County’s confirmed cases have been out-of-county exposures, a sign that physical-distancing measures are working, Unthank said.

Jefferson County’s positive case tally remained at 28 on Tuesday for a 19th consecutive day. The county’s last confirmed COVID-19 case was reported April 9.

“We’ve seen a definite drop-off in positives,” said Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer.

“We’re starting to institute the expanded testing criteria, although we have to do it in stages because we’re still not certain of the testing kit supplies.

“We’re told that that’s improving,” Locke added, “but no new test kits have been sent to Jefferson County yet.”

Health officials say increased COVID-19 testing is needed before the economy can begin to reopen.

Testing is now recommended for anyone with cold- or flu-like symptoms including cough, fever and shortness of breath.

Locke and Unthank each said they supported Gov. Jay Inslee’s partial reopening of outdoor activities such as fishing, golfing and day trips to state lands.

“That all seems reasonable,” Locke said.

“I think that those are relatively safe activities and can be done safely,” Unthank said.

“Given that we live very near a lot of recreation, I think that it will bring more people out here, and we need to be prepared for that,” Unthank added.

“Certainly, our own citizens should remember to practice good physical distancing between themselves and any visitors, and even among themselves when they’re out and doing recreational activity,” Unthank said.

Health officials continue to remind the public to keep at least 6 feet between themselves and others.

“I think the governor is trusting the people of Washington to do things in a safe and sensible way, and that’s my attitude, too,” Locke said.

“You have to let people take responsibility for themselves.”

Social gatherings are still not recommended and not allowed under Inslee’s stay-home order.

“We have seen some folks who are getting tired of social distancing starting to gather in small groups,” Unthank said.

“That is not a good idea. It is very possible to spread COVID-19 that way, so we’re really recommending that people try to stick with it as long as they can.”

As of Wednesday, Clallam County health officials had tested 1,173 for coronavirus and received 1,103 negative tests; 53 are pending.

Jefferson County had tested 816 for COVID-19 and received 787 negative tests. One test is pening.

No COVID-19-related deaths have been reported on the North Olympic Peninsula.

Locke said the COVID-19 outlook was “slowly improving in Washington state, with an emphasis on slowly.”

“I think we’re now doing better than most of the country, but what’s important for people to realize is the improvement is precarious,” Locke said.

“We could lose ground really quickly if we don’t stay to the current course.”

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