Officials looking at future for COVID-19 opening

While Jefferson County officials are discussing which portions of Phase 2 could be implemented early, Clallam County officials also are preparing for the eventual of reopening of the economy.

Jefferson County is one of 10 rural counties that Gov. Jay Inslee approved to be able to apply for a variance and move into Phase 2 of his four-phase opening plan before the rest of the state.

However, Clallam County was not included on the initial list.

District 24 legislators sent a letter to Inslee requesting that Clallam County be added to the list earlier this week, but health officials have not heard a response yet, said Dr. Allison Unthank, Clallam County health officer.

In the meantime, Clallam officials are working on plans for supporting businesses when they eventually open.

“While we wait, we’re going to make sure we’re as ready as possible when the time comes,” Unthank said.

One new case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Clallam County as of Thursday, bringing the total to 19.

The newest case is a Clallam County resident who was traveling out of state; the person contracted COVID-19 and recovered from it outside of the state and poses no risk to the community, Unthank said.

“The rules are they are counted in the county of residence,” she said.

Jefferson County has held steady with 28 confirmed cases for four weeks as of Thursday, said Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer.

Of the 47 confirmed cases on the North Olympic Peninsula, 18 have recovered in Clallam County and 26 have recovered in Jefferson County.

No deaths have been reported in either county, officials said.

Testing capabilities for both counties have increased, with both counties now testing all patients who show symptoms of COVID-19, officials said. As of Thursday, Jefferson County had tested more than 900 people and Clallam County had tested more than 1,400.

To be tested, Clallam County patients need to call their primary care providers while Jefferson County residents need to call the COVID-19 testing hotline at 360-344-3094.

People must call ahead to be tested.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says a person with a cough and shortness of breath/difficulty breathing or with a combination of two or more of a fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and new loss of taste or smell may have COVID-19.

“We want people to know that if they do have these symptoms of concern, we want to test them,” Locke said.

Unthank said there has been a drop-off in sick patients due to social distancing and community mitigation measures, but she expects testing numbers to rise as recreation and businesses start to reopen and people are exposed to not only the unique coronavirus that causes COVID-19 but also to other viral and bacterial infections that usually circulate.

Thursday evening, county Board of Health, county commissioners and Port Townsend City Council were scheduled to conduct a joint meeting to begin discussions on what Phase 2 measures the county might implement.

The Peninsula Daily News will provide coverage of the meeting, which was too late for deadline on Thursday.

Thursday morning, Locke said he expected it to be “a first look for the elected officials to let them weigh in and get their concerns on the table.”

Locke and county officials have been gathering public input regarding the different possibilities for Phase 2. Comment can be sent to publiccomments@co.jefferson.wa.us.

Locke does not expect county officials to take action in regard to the possible Phase 2 variance until at least the third week of May.

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