Officials urging people to limit gatherings

Two new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Clallam County, it was reported Thursday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases on the North Olympic Peninsula to 124.

The newest case brings Clallam County’s total to 74, while Jefferson County held at 50 cases for the eighth day in a row, according to county health officers.

One of the new cases in Clallam County is a teenage girl who is suspected of contracting the virus through local transmission. Contact tracers were working to find the possible source Thursday afternoon, said Dr. Allison Unthank, Clallam County health officer.

The other new case is a woman in her 50s.

Officials are investigating the source.

Sixty-two of Clallam County’s 74 confirmed cases have now recovered from COVID-19, and 36 cases have recovered from COVID-19 in Jefferson County, according to county reports.

Two recent cases that were hospitalized in Jefferson County had been discharged as of Thursday, said Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer.

Case numbers appear to be dropping from the Fourth of July spike that both counties were managing in recent weeks, however both Unthank and Locke are urging people to stay cautious and limiting gatherings with people outside of household members.

“Our biggest risk right now is socialization,” Unthank said. “It’s people gathering outside of the workplace in our social lives.

“You can see your friends, it just needs to be a small group and you need to do it in a distanced fashion.”

When gathering with people, it is recommended that it be done outside and distanced from one another. While being outside does not eliminate the risk of COVID-19, the risk is lower than if the gathering were inside, Locke said.

Both officers urge the public to wear face masks indoors when with other people who are not household members.

Some of the safer activities Unthank recommends are hiking, going for walks or having a picnic that incorporates social distancing.

Both health officers have been working with the local school districts as the schools prepare for the fall school year, they said. Bringing case numbers down and having virus activity across the state decrease will be crucial for schools to reopen for in-person instruction and for the economy to continue to reopen and not regress back into closures, they said.

“Taking those relatively small sacrifices now to limit our gatherings — avoid parties — really will pay off in the future by keeping businesses open and keeping people in their jobs, and helping us move towards keeping schools open in the fall,” Unthank said. “We’re hoping to keep this improvement trajectory going, keep those case numbers going lower.

“I really do think we have a shot at doing that, but it’s going to take all of us.”

Locke agrees with Unthank’s statements, saying that other states and countries have shown that they can better control the spread of COVID-19, but that it requires people to follow masking and social distancing guidelines.

“We really want people to know what the stakes are,” Locke said. “We’re not asking people to do the impossible.

“We’re asking them to do something that is very possible, but it takes widespread community participation and buy-in.”

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