Authorities say COVID-19 mitigations should stay in place until March 21

It is important to keep all mitigation measures in place until March 21, according to the region’s health officer.

State and regional authorities set a March 21 date for lifting indoor masking mandates.

Gov. Jay Inslee in his announcement on Thursday added that while masking will no longer be mandated after March 21, residents are still encouraged to continue preventing the spread of COVID-19 and bring case numbers down.

Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties, was among the members of the committee of health officers that advised Inslee on the lifting of the indoor masking mandate.

“We do believe that by March 21, our case numbers will be in a safe range that is appropriate to transition from requiring masks in indoor spaces to recommending masks in indoor spaces,” Berry told the Jefferson County Board of Health on Thursday.

“I want to be clear that we do still recommend masking in indoor spaces, but it will no longer be required in public indoor spaces,” she said.

Businesses will be able to designate whether they require customers to mask up or not; they can set their own rules.

In the meantime, “it is really important that we maintain our mitigations until March, 21,” Berry cautioned.

“We want to be at a much safer place when we remove these mitigations,” she added.

“Otherwise, we will likely see ongoing significant transmission or potentially even a subsequent surge.”

Berry also reiterated that the proof-of-vaccination mandate for people dining or drinking indoors in Jefferson and Clallam counties is on track to be lifted by March 11. She noted that the lift could come earlier if both counties can get their case rates down to 200 cases per 100,000 before that date.

”If we continue at our current trajectory we are actually likely to get there before March 11, so I really want to encourage all of our citizens to work together to drive those case numbers down,” Berry said.

Clallam County’s case rate dropped to 738 cases per 100,000 population on Thursday from 1,063 per 100,000 population on Wednesday.

Jefferson County’s case rate, which is updated weekly rather than daily, is now at 742 cases per 100,000 population. That will be updated today.

Case rates are the reflection of cases reported over a two-week period. They are computed using a formula based on 100,000 population, even for counties — such as Clallam and Jefferson — that do not have 100,000 population.

Jefferson County on Thursday reported 129 people in isolation with active cases, up from Wednesday’s report of 118 people in isolation with active cases of COVID-19.

Clallam County does not report that metric but does report a daily average over the past two weeks.

On its COVID-19 dashboard, Clallam County said on Thursday that the average daily number of cases over the past two weeks has been 53. On Wednesday, that number was 58, down from Tuesday’s report of 60 cases, which, in turn, was down from the report a week ago of 66 cases.

Clallam County added eight confirmed cases on Thursday, bringing its total cases since the pandemic began from 10,543 on Wednesday to 10,551 on Thursday.

Jefferson added 23 new cases to its total cases since the pandemic began bringing it up from 2,904 to 2,927.

No new deaths were reported in either county on Thursday. Clallam County has had 99residnets die of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, while Jefferson County has had 26 residents die of the virus since the pandemic began.

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Reporter Ken Park can be reached at kpark@peninsuladailynews.com.

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