Unthank sees uptick in Sequim COVID-19 cases

Sequim has had an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases recently and that concerns Dr. Allison Unthank, Clallam County health officer.

“We do worry about it when we start to see cases moving into Sequim,” Unthank said Thursday. “If you look at our demographics, we’re starting to see older folks testing positive.

“That’s something we’re watching very closely and doing some investigation into how this virus might be transmitted in these groups and what we can do to prevent further transmission.”

At the same time, school districts in Clallam County have started to bring back a small number of students, and that is going well, Unthank said.

“I think we’re seeing the kids do well. The teachers are adjusting to the incredibly difficult task of teaching both remotely and in-person in some cases,” Unthank said.

One new case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Clallam County on Thursday, while Jefferson County reported no new cases for the second consecutive day.

Clallam County’s case rate dropped to 21 cases per 100,000 residents for the last two weeks. Jefferson County’s case rate is posted weekly, and as of Monday it was 25.08 cases per 100,000 for the two weeks prior.

The recent case in Clallam County is believed to have contracted the novel coronavirus through community transmission, Unthank said.

Both Unthank and Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke believe that trick-or-treating on Halloween can be done safely this year if appropriate precautions are taken.

“There are certainly risks involved, but we’re certainly doing our best to kind of help parents mitigate those risks,” Locke said. “I think kids can safely trick-or-treat, but they have to do it differently than they have done it in previous years.”

Locke recommended residents trick-or-treat only with members of their households, social distance when possible and wear face masks — not just costume masks.

“I hope that the most popular mask this year will be a face mask,” he said, “that is to say, decorated face masks that will serve both functions by being a costume that people like to wear and also offering the kind of source control and personal protection that we’re looking for the pandemic.

“It’s not necessary to ban Halloween by any means. It’s also reasonable for parents who just don’t want to take the risk. You don’t have to give up the protections to have the fun and participate in the tradition of it and then you get the best of both worlds.”

Unthank recommended that people who hand out candy wear masks and wash their hands often. She said that some people have been getting creative by building chutes or using extended grabbers to pass out candy as an extra precaution.

A few groups have been organizing “trunk-or-treats,” with face masks and social distancing required, and Locke supports them.

Clallam County has confirmed 261 cases of COVID-19 since March, with eight active cases and one death, according to Clallam County Public Health data.

Jefferson County has confirmed 80 cases of COVID-19 since March, with nine active cases and no deaths, according to Jefferson County Public Health data.