Long-term care outbreak done; church adds two cases

The COVID-19 outbreak that infected 17 people at a long-term care facility in Clallam County has ended, health officials said Monday.

No residents or staff members have tested positive in the past two weeks, said Dr. Allison Berry, Clallam County health officer.

However, the church outbreak county officials have been investigating added two new cases over the weekend, raising the total number of cases to 24, Berry said.

An outbreak is considered closed once two weeks has passed without a confirmed case, she added.

Berry said the county health department plans to do more training soon with the other centers on prevention controls, since many had high staff turnover rates since the initial training, she said.

“We’re very glad to see that one wrapped up,” Berry said. “Long-term care facility outbreaks can be very serious, and they’re really one of the most concerning kind of outbreak we get.”

Both the church and the long-term care facility have not been identified for a few reasons, Berry said.

“One key reason is there is a chilling effect on participation and contact tracing when we share the location of where outbreaks occur,” she said. “The other main reason is it’s not going to make any difference to the health and safety of the public if we release the location of outbreaks.

“The reasons for that is to think that knowing where an outbreak is means the public is safe is a fundamental misunderstanding as to how this virus spreads. By the time we know where the outbreak was, it’s always past tense, and it’s not where the virus is now,” she continued.

“If we tell you the name of the church that’s had an outbreak, that’s not going to protect you because the virus isn’t there anymore; the virus is in a different church or a different gathering.”

What does help the public stay safe is learning which places have risks and how to protect themselves. High-risk places include large gatherings of unmasked people indoors, Berry said.

“If you are fully vaccinated, you can go to church pretty safely,” she said. “But if you’re not, and you’re going to a church where people are taking their mask off, that’s a really dangerous thing to do.”

Clallam County is investigating another possible outbreak at a different church, where a resident attended while positive for COVID-19, but they’re waiting on test results, Berry said.

More contagious COVID-19 variants are the main driver of infections at this point, as unvaccinated households continue to get infected by the different versions of the virus, said Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer.

Most pandemic restrictions regarding mask wearing and social distancing are expected to be removed or loosened on Wednesday, and with loosened restrictions, it’s expected that transmission risk for unvaccinated residents will rise, Locke has said.

With the changes in restrictions, unvaccinated residents are still required to wear a mask in businesses and their workplace under the state’s directives, Locke said.

Even if fully vaccinated, people are not “bulletproof” from getting infected with the novel coronavirus, but the vaccine severely reduces the possibility of infection, and if they are infected, they’re much more likely to be asymptomatic or have mild symptoms as a result of their vaccine, Locke said.

Both health officers continue to urge residents to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Anyone 12 and older is eligible to be vaccinated, but those younger than 18 can only receive Pfizer’s vaccine.

Vaccination clinics on the North Olympic Peninsula this week can be found at peninsuladailynews.com/news/official-covid-19-droplets-evaporate-in-high-temperatures.

Six new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Clallam County over the weekend, and 107 have been confirmed in June, about 7.34 percent of 1,458 cases reported since the pandemic began, according to county data.

Jefferson County confirmed two new cases over the weekend and has 32 cases this month, about 7.13 percent of the 449 total cases since the pandemic began, according to county data.

Forty-five cases were active in Clallam County on Monday and five were hospitalized. Jefferson County had six active cases.

Clallam County has recorded 12 deaths due to COVID-19 while Jefferson County has recorded four.

Both counties are in the state’s moderate-risk category with case rates of 67 per 100,000 population for the past two weeks as of Monday in Clallam County, and Jefferson County at about 43.89 cases per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Saturday.

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