State health officials may discuss reopening phases

State officials plan to discuss the idea of reactivating phased reopenings, which have been on pause since mid-July due to an eruption of COVID-19 cases.

A statewide conference call between county health officers and the state secretary of health is expected to take place this afternoon, Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke said.

The officials will evaluate where they are and determine the next steps toward the state’s four-phase plan.

Last week, Gov. Jay Inslee approved some counties stuck in Phase 1 to move to Phase 2, including Yakima, Benton and Franklin counties, all of which had severe outbreaks this summer and early fall.

Both Clallam and Jefferson counties have been in Phase 2 since mid-July, although Jefferson County had submitted an application at the time to move to Phase 3, which would allow more capacity in restaurants and some other types of businesses to reopen.

Jefferson County reported one new positive test Sunday from a resident who is not currently in the county, while Clallam County had no new cases.

The Jefferson County resident, who tested positive elsewhere, gives the county 81 positives since March and nine active cases.

Locke said Jefferson will update its case rate, which measures the number of positives per 100,000 people during the past two weeks, later today. The county’s case rate was about 28 per 100,000 — at the low end of the moderate-risk category — when it was updated last Monday.

Meanwhile, Clallam County remained at 265 total cases since March, with 10 active cases. The case rate in Clallam County is about 20 per 100,000, which puts it in the state’s low-risk category.

Locke will provide a weekly COVID-19 update for the Board of Jefferson County Commissioners at 9:45 a.m. today. Questions will be taken from KPTZ radio, and Locke said other topics will include improved contact tracing and identifying so-called “superspreader” sources of infection.

He said there is a phenomenon in which some people infected with COVID-19 appear to be much more contagious than other people infected with the virus.

Locke added there will be an update on Jefferson County schools reopening, and revisions to the screening processes used at schools.

To watch the meeting via Zoom, visit www.tinyurl.com/jeffcomeeting.

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