Peninsula health officials laud statewide masking order

The North Olympic Peninsula’s two county health officers said a statewide masking order for COVID-19 will improve compliance.

Gov. Jay Inslee, who ordered masks for hard-hit Yakima County over the weekend, extended the mandate to all 39 counties on June 23.

The order takes effect Friday, June 26.

“The hope was always that people would start to mask independently with the recommendation,” Clallam County Health Officer Dr. Allison Unthank said before the governor’s announcement.

“Unfortunately, we’re seeing so many parts of the state, including many parts of our county, where people really aren’t masking even though we’ve been recommending it for a while.”

Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke had imposed a mandatory countywide masking directive but did not seek an order like San Juan County had.

“Using criminal penalties is an absolute last resort,” Locke said in a Tuesday interview.

“We don’t want to transfer the difficult work of behavior change to the police. The police have plenty of work to do already.”

Locke said he was challenging Jefferson County businesses and the greater community to achieve a 90-percent masking compliance rate.

Health officials say face coverings help protect others from asymptomatic spread of COVID-19.

“What we’re going for is people who are infected with the virus but don’t even know it,” Locke said.

“They either don’t feel sick at all, or they feel so mildly ill that they’re not restricting their behavior.

“We want those people to be masked,” Locke added, “and if we succeed in that, then they won’t transmit the infection.”

Jefferson County health officials reported one new coronavirus case Tuesday involving a person in their 30s.

Of the 35 total cases in Jefferson County as of Tuesday, 30 had recovered from their infection.

No new cases were reported Tuesday in Clallam County, which had 33 total cases and 27 recoveries.

No COVID-19 deaths have been reported on the North Olympic Peninsula.


Unthank said statewide outbreaks, which initially centered around long-term care facilities, were shifting to businesses.

“The spacing, infection control and masking in businesses is incredibly critical to prevent outbreaks at this point,” Unthank said.

Unthank reminded anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 — which include fever, cough and shortness of breath — to get tested by their primary care physician or at one of several walk-in clinics in the county.

Those with symptoms are asked to call ahead.

Unthank said Clallam County is at risk of having a major outbreak like Yakima County, which had 6,326 confirmed COVID-19 cases Tuesday.

“I think our population did a much better job in the beginning of following the stay-at-home order, and I think that’s responsible for a lot of our success,” Unthank said in a telephone interview.

“But we could very easily become like Yakima if we decide to stop to taking distancing seriously.”

While Yakima County has a larger population (250,000) and agricultural base than the North Olympic Peninsula, Locke said COVID-19 outbreaks are expected in Clallam and Jefferson counties.

“We could see outbreaks in places like the mill and in long-term care facilities,” Locke said.

“We are not only at risk of outbreaks, we are expecting to see outbreaks. It’s just a matter of time.”

Locke said the trade-off for an early Phase 3 reopening, which Jefferson County is seeking, is an increased risk of COVID-19 transmission.

“We have to do things that decrease the risk, and that mostly involves masking and distancing,” Locke said.

“I’m also encouraging people at this time of year, any meetings you can do outside are safer than doing them inside.

“So having dinner parties and picnics and things like that outdoors, especially if they’re with friends that you don’t normally mix with, that’s a good way to get an additional margin of safety,” he added.

More in News

Sequim elementary school students headed back to classrooms next week

Plan set to bring back middle school, high school students at later dates

Health officers: Caution still needed as vaccines delivered

As vaccination efforts of the 1B1 group continued Tuesday, North Olympic Peninsula… Continue reading

Update: Clinic staff look to start online COVID-19 vaccine registration Feb. 2

Available age would shift to 65-and-up under new sign-up program

Sequim City Manager Charlie Bush, seen here in March 2020, will no longer be city manager after city councilors voted 4-2 Monday, Jan. 11, to accept his resignation. Reasons for resignation were not made public. Sequim Gazette file photo by Matthew Nash
Details sparse on call for Bush resignation

Separation agreement could be approved Monday

Land use appeal decision looms for MAT clinic

SOS seeks standing, City of Sequim, Tribe seek dismissal

Sequim City Manager Charlie Bush. Photo courtesy of City of Sequim
Sequim group forms to seek city council transparency, open dialogue

Petition urges reinstatement of city manager

Sequim Police Blotter
Police blotter — Jan. 20, 2021

The weekly police blotter includes incidents that occurred in the City of… Continue reading

Alan and Karen Selig were among the gleaners volunteering at Joyce's Blueberry Haven last summer. Photo by Sharah Truett/WSU Clallam County Extension
Summer tastes are still alive, thanks to volunteer gleaners

Thanks to a small army of volunteer gleaners and two counties full… Continue reading

Community news briefs — Jan. 20, 2021

City closes park bathrooms The restrooms on the south side of Carrie… Continue reading

Most Read