Clallam County hits another record with virus case rate

Officials: 1 in 10 infections known in communities

COVID-19 case numbers continue to surge across the North Olympic Peninsula, leading to a record case rate in Clallam County and fears of a future wave of hospitalizations.

Clallam County set a new case rate record on Thursday of 424 per 100,000 population for the past two weeks as of Thursday, according to public health data.

“This is truly an unprecedented number in our community,” said Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Clallam and Jefferson counties.

Clallam County added 39 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, raising the total number confirmed since the start of the pandemic to 2,107, according to public health data.

Jefferson County confirmed six new cases of COVID-19 Thursday, raising its total number of cases since the start of the pandemic to 623, according to county public health data.

Clallam County had confirmed about 350 active COVID-19 cases as of Thursday.

About 6,000 people are in quarantine due to having been possibly exposed to the novel coronavirus.

Jefferson had 48 cases in isolation and about 800 people in quarantine as of Thursday.

Both counties have been seeing a test positivity percentage — the percentage of COVID-19 tests returned positive — at about the 10 percent mark. That means public health departments are not catching a lot of cases that are in both communities, Berry said.

“With about 10 percent positivity, we’re only catching about one in 10 cases right now,” Berry said.

Overall, the state is seeing the highest number of people hospitalized due to COVID-19 it has seen since the start of the pandemic.

Cassie Sauer, president of the Washington State Hospital Association, said that, as of Thursday morning, there were 1,240 people with coronavirus in state hospitals. The previous high number was about 1,100 in December.

“Hospitals are still really, really full across the state,” Sauer said at a news conference.

While area hospitals have avoided large surges of COVID-19 patients so far, that could change in the next few weeks because of the extremely high amount of virus transmission in the community, Berry said.

Hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 lag by two to three weeks behind significant increases in case numbers, she added.

As of Thursday, three people were hospitalized for COVID-19 in Jefferson County, while Clallam County had seven people undergoing treatment in a hospital.

That is below the hospitalization numbers recorded earlier this year after long-term care facility and church outbreaks, Berry said.

The high level of cases in the community has caused health officials to change their response tactics, such as no longer being able to call all contacts of confirmed cases and only calling the confirmed cases and asking them to call their contacts, Berry said.

The officials are also prioritizing outbreak responses, as there are numerous small outbreaks with three to five cases throughout the Peninsula, and they want to curb those outbreaks as quickly as possible, Berry said.

“We really focus on shutting down those large-scale outbreaks that can lead to a lot of morbidity and mortality,” Berry said. “That’s our goal right now, is keep them as small as possible right now and keep them from spreading and from spreading to high-risk people as much as we can.”

While the population centers of Port Angeles, Sequim and Port Townsend have their highest numbers of cases of COVID-19 currently, there is a lot of activity in the more rural areas of the Peninsula as well, Berry said.

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]

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