Officials: Travel heightens health risks

Local health officers are concerned that people traveling to Clallam and Jefferson counties, potentially exposing the Olympic Peninsula to the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Dr. Tom Locke and Dr Allison Berry Unthank, respective health officers for Jefferson and Clallam counties, said that was discussed in a conference call on March 22.

Both officials said it’s happening in rural areas all around the state and not unique to the North Olympic Peninsula.

“There’s a big push to restrict travel,” Locke said. “I predict they’re going to get serious about this.”

As of March 22, Gov. Jay Inslee had not issued a stay-at-home order like several other governors nationwide. But he has urged people to stay at home as much as possible.

“This is concerning,” Unthank said. “We don’t encourage (people traveling out of county.) The governor’s orders were never meant for people to travel.”

Unthank said that can especially be a problem for rural counties.

“We have fewer COVID-19 resources,” she said. “This is a common issue in a lot of rural areas.”

Unthank said it’s still all right for people to go for a walk on the Olympic Discovery Trail or other places for now, but she advised them to stay mindful about social distancing.

“You’re free to go for a walk, but just don’t spend a lot of time close to other people,” she said. “When you’re getting gas, avoid excessive contact with others.”