PORT ANGELES — Clallam County passed the 200-case mark for COVID-19 on Wednesday while Jefferson County’s case tally since the count began in the spring held at 69.
Health officials in both counties were tracing contacts of recent cases while making plans for an expected rise in coronavirus activity as the weather changes in the coming months.
“We’re anticipating that things will likely get worse in the fall,” Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer, said Wednesday.
Clallam County added four new cases Wednesday for a total of 203 since March.
Most of Clallam County’s latest cases were tied to social gatherings and an outbreak at a Port Angeles bar.
“I am hopeful that people have seen this dramatic uptick and are taking COVID-19 precautions seriously,” said Dr. Allison Unthank, Clallam County health officer, in a Wednesday interview.
“Every time we have outbreaks related to gatherings or establishments, we tend to see an ongoing trickle of cases coming in.
“Really, next week is where we would see any benefit from people changing their actions in the last week,” Unthank added.
Clallam County had 32 cases reported in the past week and 64 for the two-week period ending Wednesday.
Jefferson County had seven cases reported within the past week and 14 for the two-week period ending Wednesday.
Clallam is considered a high-risk county for the novel coronavirus because its infection rate has exceeded 75 cases per 100,000 population in the past two weeks.
Clallam County’s two-week infection rate was 93 per 100,000 as of Wednesday, Unthank said.
Infection rates are based on when a positive sample was drawn, not when the case was reported.
“It’s anticipated it will bounce around a bit because of our low population, but we’re regularly in the 90s and the 80s,” Unthank said.
“When you have populations like ours, just a few cases can really dramatically shift that number.”
Jefferson County updates its two-week infection rate every Saturday. It is in the moderate-risk category with 37.6 cases per 100,000 population.
The threshold for low risk is 25 cases per 100,000. The state average was 109.8 per 100,000.
Given Clallam County’s high-risk status, school districts have decided to eschew in-person classes in September.
Jefferson County school districts will begin the school year with a mix of in-person learning and remote instruction.
Jefferson County’s 10 volunteer contact tracers and public health staff were monitoring 40 who were exposed to recent cases.
“They get daily calls, and they’re in quarantine,” Locke said.
“We test them about mid-quarantine, usually around seven days after their last exposure.”
Most COVID-19 test samples that originate on the North Olympic Peninsula are processed at a University of Washington lab within 24 to 36 hours.
Several new cases in Jefferson County were associated with a gathering at Tarboo Lake, Locke said.
“We’ve certainly seen the phenomenon of out-of-area visitors, generally family, not tourists, but family who come to visit and unfortunately are unknowingly infected and therefore transmit the infection,” Locke said.
Other cases were tied to an outbreak at St. Michael Medical Center in Bremerton.
“A lot of people in Jefferson County get health care services in Kitsap County, so it’s not surprising,” Locke said.
“In some cases, we cannot determine where they were infected.”
Clallam County had one COVID-19-related death as of Wednesday. The death was reported Aug. 14.
Jefferson was one of only six counties in the state with no COVID-19-related deaths as of Wednesday.
“We’ve had some people with life-threatening complications and prolonged periods on ventilators, but thankfully, all have survived,” Locke said.
Since Washington averted a surge that overwhelmed other states, Seattle hospitals have maintained bed capacity to treat intensive care patients with COVID-19 complications.
“The sickest of the sick get sent to Seattle, and they get some of the best intensive care in the country,” Locke said.
Two Jefferson County COVID-19 patients received life-saving medical intervention in Seattle, he said.
“They were on ventilators for over two weeks,” Locke said.
“It used to be that only about 10 percent of people survived that kind of intervention in the early days of the pandemic. But now, the majority are surviving.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected].