No new COVID-19 cases reported on peninsula

Clallam County had no new COVID-19 cases for the second-straight day Tuesday while Jefferson County health officials continued to report low rates of coronavirus transmission.

Clallam County Health Officer Dr. Allison Unthank said the two-day respite was “very promising” after large-scale outbreaks in August.

“I guess it’s a low bar, but we’ve come a long way from where we were,” Unthank said in a Tuesday interview.

“If we all work together, we can keep this trajectory going, for sure.”

Jefferson County also had no new cases Tuesday — and just one case in the last week.

“Prevalence is really quite low in Jefferson County right now, and that’s a good thing,” said Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer.

Clallam County’s case total remained at 212 on Tuesday. Jefferson County’s case count held at 70.

Both counties are in the moderate-risk category based on the number of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the past two weeks.

Clallam County’s infection rate was 55 per 100,000, Unthank said. Jefferson County’s infection rate was 28 per 100,000, Locke said.

Clallam County had previously been in the high-risk category before entering the moderate range Monday.

COVID-19 outbreaks are still occurring around the state at parties, businesses and some congregate facilities, Unthank said.

“What we’re working on locally is trying to shore up our defenses, really working on improving infection prevention in businesses, working on getting the message out about avoiding parties and gatherings, and if you’re going to gather, doing it safely,” Unthank said.

Locke and Unthank each warned about the potential for coronavirus outbreaks over Labor Day weekend.

Fourth of July parties were blamed for outbreaks on the North Olympic Peninsula and around the state.

Jefferson County health officials were working closely with schools districts, all of which will have some form of in-person education this fall.

“Everyone is still on track,” Locke said after meetings with school officials Tuesday.

The success of school re-openings will hinge on how well students and families maintain infection-control measures outside the classroom, Locke said.

“The next several weeks are going to be very busy as we just try to get people comfortable with this very unique endeavor of trying to reopen schools in the midst of an ongoing pandemic,” Locke said.

Clallam County school districts will begin the academic year with remote learning.

Clallam County’s two-week infection rate would need to remain in the moderate-risk category — 25 to 75 cases per 100,000 — for four weeks before school officials would consider hybrid models with some in-person learning.

“In conversation with the superintendents, we came to the shared decision that we’d like to be below 75 cases per 100,000 for four weeks before we would feel safe moving to larger in-person instruction, and that’s mainly just to assure that we’re going to stay down,” Unthank said.

“We don’t want to put kids and families through the challenge of closing and reopening very frequently, so we really want to know we’re stably in a safe zone before we would do that.”

Jefferson County health officials have begun posting a weekly percent-positive statistic showing what percent of COVID-19 tests return positive.

For the week ending Saturday, 455 tests were done in Jefferson County and three were positive, a 0.66 percent positive rate.

“The goal is you want to be below 2 percent,” Locke said.

“That’s considered low prevalence. That’s a reassuring thing that, No. 1, we’re doing a lot of testing, and that 99 percent of it is coming back negative.”