Three new cases of COVID-19 in Clallam County

Three new COVID-19 cases were confirmed Monday in Clallam County and one new case was confirmed in Jefferson County.

The additional cases bumped Clallam County’s total to 136 since March with 26 currently active and Jefferson County’s total to 55 since March with four currently active.

Clallam County is in the state’s moderate-risk category with 53 cases per 100,000 people for the past two weeks, said Dr. Allison Unthank, the county health officer.

The number reported Sunday, a rate of 36.8 cases per 100,000, was based on a two-week total kept by the state Department of Health that was last updated July 30.

Jefferson County remains in the state’s low-risk category with 9.14 cases per 100,000 people, according to figures from July 30.

Counties with more than 75 cases per 100,000 are considered high-risk, while those between 25-75 cases per 100,000 are moderate-risk. Counties with fewer than 25 cases per 100,000 are in the low-risk category.

Unthank said cases in Clallam County are steadily increasing.

“We’re seeing about three to seven on any given day,” she said.

“So, definitely far more than we would like. It looks like really the primary risk factors for acquiring the virus that we’re seeing right now is at work and in social interactions.”

Of the new cases, two were contracted through in-county contacts and one was contracted from outside the state, Unthank said.

Jefferson County’s new positive Monday came from a person who already had been in quarantine after they had come into contact with a known out-of-state case, according to Jefferson Public Health.

Unthank has seen many recent cases traced to large parties hosted by community members, some with out-of-state guests as well, she said.

“We do recommend avoiding parties,” she said. “Certainly, large gatherings are not allowed at this point, but unfortunately we tend to find out about them after they have already happened.

“The risk of contracting COVID-19 at a gathering of that size, given the amount of the virus we’re seeing in the community right now, is really quite high.”

In regard to work-related transmission, Unthank said there have been cases of people going to work while sick with mild symptoms and then possibly infecting their co-workers.

Both Unthank and Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke have stressed people need to stay home when they’re sick and get tested for COVID-19, even if symptoms are mild.

Clallam and Jefferson counties are both still in Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-part “Safe Start” plan, which states residents should only interact with five people outside of their household each week.

People can visit with those five people at different times throughout the week, but the key part is keeping the overall social circle small, Unthank said.

“I think that that is a very good rule, and I think if we all practice that rule, we’ll be a lot safer for it,” she said. “I do recommend [visits with the same people], kind of building a little quarantine team, and those are the folks that you guys know you are each other’s contacts.”

Applications to move into a new phase have been frozen indefinitely by the state, and Locke does not expect the application process to reopen in August.

Locke has been concerned with the rising case numbers in neighboring Clallam and Kitsap counties, as the cases could spread into Jefferson County.

“This is worrisome to be sandwiched between two counties with high outbreak rates,” he said. “We don’t get low rates like this without people taking this seriously.

“The more activity there is, the higher the risk of importing cases is.”

Unthank has seen a significant rise in COVID-19 cases in the West End, while Sequim and Port Angeles areas have seen a few cases in the past week.

“Primarily, our significant rise in cases has been in the West End, and that’s particularly important for our West End colleagues to know,” Unthank said. “It’s really important to practice those safe-distancing and mask-wearing practices, especially when you’re in the West End.

“The likelihood that someone has COVID-19 — whether or not they know it — is much higher out there.”

Both health officers have been working with the various school districts regarding opening plans for fall, and a key piece of both possibly opening in-person learning at some level and keeping schools open is how people follow social distancing, mask wearing and social-gathering guidelines to reduce transmission, they said.

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