Peninsula counties add new COVID-19 cases as Jefferson surpasses 100 infections

The numbers of new COVID-19 cases continue to rise on the North Olympic Peninsula as Jefferson County confirmed five new cases Tuesday and Clallam County reported one.

The infections put Jefferson County at 103 COVID-19 cases since March, while Clallam County is at 304 cases since March.

None of the new cases are connected with the long-term care facility outbreak that Clallam County health officials are investigating, said Dr. Allison Unthank, the county health officer.

The new case in Clallam County was still under investigation Tuesday, she said.

Two of the new cases in Jefferson County are contacts of prior cases, and the other three of the new cases in the county were still being investigated for how they may have contracted the novel coronavirus, said Dr. Tom Locke, the county health officer.

The long-term care facility in Clallam County has not been identified yet, as Unthank waits for it to make a public statement, and so far only three cases have arisen from it: two staff members and one resident, she said.

The facility is under quarantine, Unthank said.

Both counties continue to be in the state’s moderate-risk category, with case rates of 37 cases per 100,000 population in Clallam County for the past two weeks and about 34.5 cases per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Monday in Jefferson County, according to county public health data.

Both Unthank and Locke are concerned about the rising case numbers and are urging residents to be cautious and follow COVID-19 prevention recommendations such as mask wearing, social distancing and limiting social circles to less than five outside of one’s household to slow the spread of the virus.

“Certainly it’s concerning,” Unthank said. “We are doing some pretty intensive contact tracing.

“We have a few concerning areas of infection — certainly the long-term care facility cases that we’re following and some other local transmission that we’re tracing as well — so it certainly has the potential to increase. We are working feverishly to do what we can to keep those numbers low, but we’re definitely encouraging our community to be vigilant so we can turn things around sooner rather than later.”

Locke said: “We’re still much lower than other areas of the state, but any rise concerns me.

“I’m especially concerned as we approach the holidays. People have travel plans, the airlines are booked up, college students are coming home, people are doing all of these things that are really risky,” he said.

“We’re a couple of weeks away from what can be a really big spike in cases … by the end of the month, we could be dealing with pretty serious outbreaks.”

So far, school districts in both counties have remained clear of COVID-19, unlike some other districts statewide. However, with case rates going up, Locke said it will be more difficult to keep schools open as staff and students are more likely to get infected.

“As case prevalence goes higher, it’s going to be harder to keep the schools open, because there’s going to be more of a chance that an infected student or staff member will show up in school and can set off an outbreak,” Locke said.

“We believe that keeping in-person education available is a very high priority, but it’s going to take the whole community working to make that happen.”

Clallam County has 20 active cases — one of whom is hospitalized — and 220 people in quarantine, counting those at the long-term care facility, Unthank said. The county has had one death, which was in August.

Jefferson County has 13 active cases and more than 45 people in quarantine, Locke said. The county has had no deaths.