Three new COVID-19 cases in Clallam County

Three new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Clallam County, bringing the total number of cases on the North Olympic Peninsula to 91.

Jefferson County had no new confirmed cases Thursday, holding at 41, and Clallam County is at 50 confirmed cases as of Thursday, county health officers said.

The newest cases in Clallam are two men in the same household who are in their 50s and 20s, and a woman in her 20s. All three contracted the virus from other known cases, said Dr. Allison Unthank, Clallam County health officer.

None of the three newest cases are hospitalized, Unthank said.

For the last two weeks, Unthank and Clallam County Public Health have been investigating two outbreaks of COVID-19 at Serenity House and at the Olympic Medical Center.

The Serenity House outbreak is considered closed after two rounds of testing last week and this week.

Outside of one additional case found last week, no further cases have been discovered after a total of 114 people were tested last week and 90 were tested this week. All 90 tests returned negative.

At OMC, no additional cases outside of two staff members have been found so far, after almost 400 tests were conducted last week and returned negative.

Unthank said she is waiting on another 115 to be returned either today or Saturday from the second round of testing.

The recent cases in Clallam County are suspected to be coming from individual gatherings.

People are meeting at the homes of friends and family, and they are not wearing face masks while they have been inside, Unthank said.

“People have a tendency to take off their mask when they go into a household that’s not theirs,” Unthank said. “We do actually still recommend masking when you’re around anyone outside of your household, including a non-public gathering.

“It’s not a requirement, because we can’t legislate that, but we do recommend it,” Unthank said.

Tuesday marked the start of the “No Mask, No Service” rule statewide, barring businesses from serving unmasked customers, and both Unthank and Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer, have noticed a rise in compliance in customers wearing masks — specifically in Clallam County, which has had lower compliance than Jefferson County throughout the pandemic.

Jefferson County officials noted more than 90 percent compliance in some stores previously.

An official survey for Clallam County on masking compliance is still in the works.

Both counties are in Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan. Jefferson County has applied for Phase 3, but state approval has been delayed by a “pause” Gov. Jay Inslee instituted in moving from one phase to another.

Clallam County officials decided to wait before they apply for Phase 3 due to a rise in cases.

Locke said he is still hearing push-back from residents against mask wearing.

“Masking is definitely increasing,” Locke said. “There are still people who are objecting to it as an infringement of their liberty, and I think they have yet to see how important this is as a pandemic-control device.

“But I think more and more people are coming around to that. What I’m trying to communicate to them is that it is essential for all these other things we want to reopen.”

Both health officers are concerned by the rise in COVID-19 cases in the state. More activity poses more risk, and people have to take precautions like wearing a mask, or things could get worse, they said.

“We want to reopen businesses, we want to reopen up schools again in the fall, and we’re simply not going to be able to do those unless we control the level of infection in the community,” Locke said.

“We only succeed as a state if we succeed in every county in suppressing the infection down to the lowest level we can.”

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