Two new COVID-19 cases in Clallam; none in Jefferson

Local health officials are concerned about Washington state’s rising COVID-19 case numbers.

Two new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Clallam County on Wednesday, while Jefferson County held steady with no new cases for the second straight day.

The infection rate for Clallam County dropped to 21 cases per 100,000 residents for the last two weeks, while Jefferson County’s rate remained at 9.4 cases per 100,000 for the same time period.

Both counties remain in the state’s low-risk category.

If the infection risk rate rises above 25 per 100,000, then the county moves from low risk to moderate risk.

New cases

The two newest cases in Clallam County are household members of previous confirmed cases, said Dr. Allison Unthank, Clallam County health officer.

Both Unthank and Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke are concerned about the rise in cases statewide. The reproduction number — the number of new people infected by one confirmed case — had risen to 1.3 as of Wednesday, Locke said.

“The number of cases in Washington state are creeping upwards,” he said. “The pandemic is growing in Washington state, and that’s not a good thing as we head into the fall and winter season, when we know that respiratory viruses are more easily transmitted.

“My concern is we’re going to see a steady increase in infections around the state because of the cooling weather, so we have to be redoubling our efforts to try to prevent transmission.”

Unthank said: “So far we’ve been able to hold off on our numbers rising along with the state’s, which we’re cautiously hopeful about.

“The biggest thing we’re worried about would be another large-scale outbreak. One of the things we’re learning about this virus is that it does really seem to spread primarily through these kind of super-spreader events, at least so far of the majority of infections,” she said.

“I think it was 80 percent of infections are caused by 17 percent of people, so what we’re really seeing is most infections really come from these large groups indoors, in poorly ventilated spaces where they’re unmasked and close together.”

Both health officers are urging residents to continue to wear face masks while indoors with non-household members, practice social distancing and limit gathering sizes to prevent a possible surge of cases on the North Olympic Peninsula.

“If you’re going to be coming indoors, masking and keeping 6 feet apart is a really critical way to keep folks as safe as possible,” Unthank said. “What we’ve really learned is that you need all three: you need spacing, you need masking and low numbers.

“If you can add outdoors to that, that certainly makes everything safer. If you are indoors, masks on, spaced out and you’ll be a lot safer. We’re worried that folks will let down their guard and go back to having parties, having weddings and having really large indoor events, and that could really cause our numbers to really spiral out of control.”

The first approved vaccine for the general public against COVID-19 is not expected to start to become available until at least the beginning of next year, Locke said.

“We’re really not expecting it until the beginning of next year,” he said. “The talk about October/November vaccine availability is just political theater. It’s not based on any sound science.”

Clallam County has confirmed 255 cases of COVID-19 since March, with seven active cases and one death, according to Clallam County Public Health data.

Jefferson County has confirmed 75 cases of COVID-19 since March, with four active cases and no deaths, according to Jefferson County Public Health data.

No one is currently hospitalized for COVID-19 on the Peninsula.