No new COVID-19 cases on peninsula

No new cases of COVID-19 were reported on the North Olympic Peninsula on Tuesday.

Clallam County’s case total held at 136 on Tuesday and Jefferson County’s tally remained at 55, the two county health officers said.

Clallam County’s two-week infection rate was 53.9 cases per 100,000 population while Jefferson County’s infection rate was 15.7 cases per 100,000, state and county health officials said.

Low risk is considered below 25 cases per 100,000 over 14 days.

“We’re certainly not seeing the kind of level of transmission that they’re having to deal with in Clallam and Kitsap (counties), which is certainly good,” Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke said Tuesday.

“As I explained to the commissioners yesterday, this can all change overnight.”

Jefferson County residents had largely followed infection prevention measures such as masking, physical distancing and staying home when sick, Locke said.

“I think the vast majority of people are very supportive and they understand the stakes,” Locke said.

“I think the vast majority of people are very supportive and they understand the stakes,” Locke said.

“With many elderly people, over a third of the population in Jefferson County, COVID-19 could be a life-or-death kind of issue for Jefferson County residents, so people take it real seriously.”

No COVID-19-related deaths had been reported on the Peninsula as of Tuesday.

Clallam County Health Officer Dr. Allison Unthank emphasized the importance of limiting social interactions to prevent COVID-19 transmission.

“We’ve continued to see cases from folks primarily though social activities, so we’re really reminding folks to keep those interactions short and distanced,” Unthank said.

“You can see friends and family. You just really want to keep that 6 feet of distance between you. And the more we learn how to practice that, the fewer cases we’ll get.”

Infection-control measures will be in place until a COVID-19 vaccine is widely distributed, Unthank said.

“I would be very surprised if we have a vaccine before the beginning of next year,” Unthank said.

“Even then, once we have a vaccine, we need to get enough folks vaccinated, so I would really anticipate we’re going to be dealing with this until well into next year.”

Locke said there were at “least a half dozen” promising vaccine candidates and an “extraordinary amount of resources” being devoted to vaccines.

“I think it’s not unreasonable by the end of the year, or early in the next year, that there will actually be a licensed vaccine,” Locke said.

“But getting it out there and vaccinating enough of the population to make a difference is really going to take time.”

A vaccine with a 60-to-70-percent effectiveness would be considered a success, Locke said.

“You have to vaccinate a lot people with that level of effectiveness to really achieve the herd immunity that’s necessary,” Locke said.

Locke predicted that the COVID-19 pandemic would last through the 2020-21 school year.

“Certainly through the rest of this year, and probably the first half of the next year, we will be in some kind of pandemic-response mode,” Locke said.

“And then, if everything goes right and we have very high levels of vaccinations and an effective vaccine, I could see this sort of letting up towards the end of the school year, so spring, summer of 2021.”

Infection rates reached through formula

The two-week infection rate for COVID-19 is calculated from the point at which a positive sample is drawn, not the date on which a case was reported to the public, Unthank said.

Clallam County’s 53.9 per 100,000 population infection rate was derived from samples collected from July 26 through Sunday, Unthank said Tuesday.

“They standardize by the date the lab was drawn,” Unthank said, “because if you look across Clallam County, most of our labs come back within about two days, but in the far West End, sometimes it’s like seven days.”

“So in order to keep a consistent metric, it’s when the lab was done is what we measure by,” she said.

Jefferson County had a 15.7 per 100,000 infection rate based on having five new cases in the past 14 days, Locke said.

The statewide COVID-19 transmission rate was 127.6 per 100,000 for the two-week period ending Aug. 4.

As of Tuesday, the state COVID-19 risk assessment dashboard listed 30.3 cases per 100,000 in Clallam County for the past two weeks.

Unthank said the disparity comes from the state using older data — 30.3 per 100,000 was Clallam County’s infection rate for the two-week period ending Aug. 4.

To find the new data, click on the “COVID-19 Disease Activity,” tab on the dashboard, click on Clallam County and use the mouse to hover the over the line graph.

“We use an adjusted population of 77,000, so the formula is that total number of reported cases who had labs drawn in that time period divided by 0.77,” Unthank said.

“It won’t always match the total number (of cases) reported.”

Clallam County had 47 new cases of COVID-19 reported for the two-week period ending Tuesday — 89 as of July 28 and 136 as of Tuesday.

That equates to 61 cases per 100,000 without the formula that is applied.

Jefferson County had five new cases for the two-week period ending Tuesday — 50 as of July 28 and 55 as of Tuesday.

That equates to 15.7 per 100,000 population based on Jefferson County’s 31,900 population in 2019.

“We were using the 2020 county population of 32,800 last week but switched to the 2019 population of 31,900 to be consistent with the state calculations,” Locke said Tuesday.

A rate below 25 per 100,000 is considered low risk, according to a measurement provided from the state last week. Between 25 and 75 cases per 100,000 is moderate risk. High risk is over 75 per 100,00, as computed by the formula.

Gov. Jay Inslee and other officials announced the infection risk parameters when recommending that most schools consider online learning only this fall to slow the spread of COVID-19.

In moderate-risk counties, he said distance learning should be considered for middle and high school students. In-person learning could be an option for elementary students and those with special needs.

In low-risk counties, school districts should consider a hybrid distance/in-person schedule for older students and in-person learning for elementary school students.

Unthank said a data malfunction at the state level caused a lag in COVID-19 cases appearing on the dashboard.

“I’m hoping once they get that fixed, they’ll start updating it daily again, and then we’ll be able to see our numbers in real time,” Unthank said.

“In order to keep a consistent metric,” she added, “it’s when the lab was done.”

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