Jefferson County took its first step toward considering which business sectors it might allow to reopen as one of 10 rural counties to qualify under Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-phase plan to restart the state economy in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jefferson and Grays Harbor counties both qualified under criteria Inslee announced on Friday to move into phase two, which could include “new construction, some manufacturing, restaurants under 50 percent capacity, hair and nail salons, barbers, real estate, professional services, housecleaning” and others, according to the state.
However, Clallam County did not qualify for the same waiver into the next phase because it hasn’t had a two-week period without a new confirmed case of the novel coronavirus. As such, the first phase of Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, in which most nonessential businesses are closed to the public, will remain in effect until May 31.
Dr. Allison Unthank, the Clallam County health officer, said she’s been asked why the county wasn’t included.
“In order to be one of those counties, you have to had no positive cases in the last two weeks prior to that order, and we don’t meet that criteria,” said Clallam County Health Officer Dr. Allison Unthank. “That’s the biggest reason why we weren’t in that group.
“A lot of folks wondered if we had just advocated harder, whether or not would we have been in that group — no, because we had cases in the last couple of weeks,” Unthank said.
Unthank said there’s other factors to look at in loosening restrictions — the degree of disease activity, how many cases are being transmitted within the community, the readiness of the local health care system to handle a possible large surge in new cases, and whether there is adequate testing and contact tracing in place among them.
“As far as where we are as a county, I think we’re actually doing quite well, but I would say we have a significant vulnerabilities if we had a large outbreak,” she said. “We have a very elderly population, we have a fragile health care system. Even though we have relatively few cases, a large outbreak would be very hard to manage. So we have to be particularly cautious as we move forward.”
“Long story short — we just don’t qualify to be one of those counties,” she said.
Jefferson County has 28 confirmed cases, and the most recent was diagnosed April 9, Locke said.
Clallam County has 18 confirmed cases, and Unthank said Monday all but one is now considered recovered.
As restrictions on many parks and recreation activities are scheduled to be lifted as early as today, Unthank said during a daily briefing Monday that she’s had many conversations with the public and with state and federal parks officials about the potential for tourists coming from areas where the virus has been more prevalent.
“In truth I’ve heard pressure from both directions,” she said. “I’ve heard from folks who want to blow up the bridge and keep people out, (and) I’ve heard from other folks who say, ‘I run a family-run fishing company, and we’re going to go out of business.’ ”
Unthank said people are already at a lower risk of contracting COVID-19 if they are outdoors, and if people maintain a 6-foot distance and wash their hands, their risk would be even lower.
“There are parts of our county that rely on tourists for their income, and we need to acknowledge that,” she said.
Mask purchases benefit local groups
At least two local groups are donating purchases of personal masks to nonprofits, looking to help the community while keeping residents safer from the spread of germs.
Organizers of the Sequim Face Masks Challenge are turning their mask-making into a fundraiser for four local groups, co-organizer Jim Stoffer said this week.
For a suggested $5 donation, people can pick up a mask at Trinity United Methodist Church, 100 S. Blake Ave., with funds raised going to the Sequim Food Bank, Sequim High School’s Class of 2020, the Trinity United Methodist Church and the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Grant Program.
See www.facebook.com/groups/510268196349854, call/text 360-775-9781 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The Peninsula Friend of Animals’ “Potholder Team” has been busy in recent weeks, hand-making 875 face masks and 20 gowns that are being distributed to those in need through Clallam County Emergency Management. With the organization’s major annual fundraiser (“Catnip and Sip”) cancelled because of the health crisis, team member are turning their work to benefit PFOA itself.
For a suggested donation of $20, purchasers will receive one mask that can be picked up at the shelter, 257509 US Highway 101 between Sequim and Port Angeles, while another mask will donated as needed. Donations can be dropped off in a box at the shelter to minimize contact. Call 360-452-0414 x3 or email to email@example.com to arrange a pick-up.