Clallam County confirmed on Tuesday two additional deaths caused by COVID-19, raising the total number of deaths on the North Olympic Peninsula to 12, with nine in Clallam County and three in Jefferson County.
One of the deaths was an elderly man with chronic conditions who died more than a month ago, but whose death was not reported to the county by the state at the time, said Dr. Allison Berry, Clallam County health officer. The other was an otherwise healthy man in his 40s who died Monday, she said.
Also, Clallam County confirmed seven new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, all stemming from the three gatherings, and Jefferson County confirmed one new case.
Clallam County has confirmed 25 cases so far this month, about 1.99 percent of the 1,258 cases reported during the past year, according to county data.
Jefferson County has confirmed eight cases so far this month, about 2.01 percent of the 398 cases reported in the past year, according to county Public Health data.
The county was informed of the younger man being infected with COVID-19 over the weekend. His condition quickly deteriorated after being admitted into the Intensive Care Unit, Berry said.
“I think it’s important to acknowledge the tragedy of the situation,” she said.
“He has a young family, so it’s an important time for those who do know him and his family to gather around them and care for them in these difficult times. We send them our deepest condolences to his family.
“These kind of cases are luckily relatively rare when healthy folks die of COVID, but they can happen, and this is unfortunately an example of that,” Berry said.
Berry wouldn’t confirm Tuesday if the man’s death stemmed from one of three large gatherings recently that have led to more than 100 new cases of the unique coronovirus.
She texted, “We don’t divulge that.”
However, Berry said Monday that all but five of the 101 cases confirmed up until then since April 16 are believed to have stemmed from the three gatherings — one wedding and two parties — either from someone who attended one of them or from someone exposed to the virus by an attendee.
That pattern of infections has bled into subsequent outbreaks at four daycare centers and a high school wrestling team, none of which have been identified.
County officials believe they have been able to contact all those who have been known to have been exposed and placed them in quarantine.
Some of the daycare centers had to close due to staffing issues, Berry said. She said she did not have the number of how many did, as it was an internal decision rather than a public health decision.
“All of the parents affected by the daycare closures have been contacted,” Berry texted on Tuesday.
“If a parent has not been contacted, it is because their daycare was not affected.”
Parents who are still concerned should contact their daycare directly or the Clallam Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at 360-417-2430, Berry said.
Gov. Jay Inslee announced Tuesday in a press conference that the state’s Roadmap to Recovery is paused for the next two weeks.
He said no county is moving forward or backward in regard to the various phases of reopening due to current data showing the state is beginning to see a case number plateau.
While neither Jefferson nor Clallam counties were at risk of moving back to Phase 2, both Berry and Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer, are concerned that the state’s metrics for gauging the virus transmission are too high to be effective.
Specifically, they believe case rate of 200 per 100,000 population for larger counties is too high to effectively respond quickly to rising case numbers.
Instead, all counties should be subject to the 100 per 100,000 threshold of smaller counties, including Jefferson, they said.
“The Roadmap to Recovery plan, in terms of its metrics, has been flawed from the very beginning,” Locke said. “This idea that you could make science-based decisions off of these arbitrary numerical targets is just not how it works.
“I don’t think the Roadmap plan has worked out how it was intended. In fairness, there really is no roadmap in a pandemic. What they were trying to do may have been impossible from the very beginning,” he continued.
“My main concern with the governor’s latest decision is that I think it’s very important that people not interpret his inaction as being an endorsement for people who are unvaccinated going to these outbreak areas like Snohomish, King and Pierce (counties).”
Both health officers are continuing to urge residents 16 and older to start the vaccination process as soon as possible.
Fifty-three COVID-19 cases were active as of Tuesday in Clallam County, with three patients hospitalized, one of whom is in the Intensive Care Unit.
Jefferson County had 11 active cases Monday.
Clallam County is in the state’s high-risk category with a case rate of 103 per 100,000 population for the past two weeks as of Tuesday, while Jefferson County is in the moderate-risk category with a case rate of 62.7 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Saturday.