Public health officers in Clallam and Jefferson counties expressed concerns about a rise in community transmission of COVID-19 on Wednesday as Clallam County added a new case.
“We do have a new case since yesterday, and we are up to 28 in total [with 26 recovered],” said Dr. Allison Unthank, Clallam County public health officer, on Wednesday.
“This new case is a man in his 50s who is isolating at home at this point. He hasn’t been out of the county, so this is a case of community transmission as we don’t know where he got it from.”
Unthank said the man doesn’t work directly with the public and “probably picked it up from being around more people than we recommend.”
Jefferson County’s case total remained at 31, with 30 recovered, according to county health departments.
Limiting social interactions to a tight circle of relatives and friends is advised as Clallam and Jefferson counties attempt to advance from Phase 2 to Phase 3 of the state’s Safe Start plan. Phase 3 would allow more businesses to reopen and larger public gatherings of up to 50 people.
“This period is a really critical juncture in our response,” Unthank said.
“The thing that has me a little worried about our most recent cases is they both have had a number of contacts out there in the county. That makes us concerned that, as people are starting to spend more time together, we could see more and more cases.
“We are hopeful that people continue to keep space between each other in public and limit their number of contacts, and we will be able to drive it down so that it doesn’t impact lives. If we decide we are not taking it seriously anymore, if we spend too much time with other people, we could see a dramatic rise quite quickly.”
Unthank said there are three steps people can take to prevent transmission in addition to wearing masks in public.
“Space, time and people. Remember to put a lot of space between you and others and that it is always better to be outside. Keep those interactions short, and limit the number of people you come in contact with.” ‘
Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County public health officer, said continuing to be mindful that we are in a prolonged pandemic response would help limit transmission.
“We all did this stay-at-home strategy to buy us time to get ready for the next stage of it, and that worked. We are as prepared as we are going to be, and now it’s up to the community,” Locke said.
“If people do the things that we know limit the spread of transmission, we can move forward. If we don’t, we will reach that unmanageable level and we would step back.”
He said that a potential setback would allow for more targeted responses and wouldn’t necessarily demand a move back to earlier phases.
“If a restaurant wasn’t following public health guidelines, we could step in and close that establishment, or if there was a nursing home outbreak, we would respond, and the state Department of Health has formed these strike teams that can respond to provide containment,” he said.
For even the slightest of symptoms, Unthank urged testing.
“Even the most mild symptoms of infection, please call your primary care doctor,” Unthank said. “If you don’t have a primary care doctor, call a walk-in clinic.”
COVID-19 tests are available at primary care clinics, walk-in clinics, tribal clinics and a drive-through system at Jefferson Healthcare.
Unthank said tests are much less invasive than in the beginning of the pandemic.
“It’s a nasal swab now and feels like a small tickle, not painful at all,” Unthank said. “I got my 7-month-old daughter tested recently (a negative result), and it didn’t bother her a bit.”
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-406-0674 or mcarman@peninsuladaily news.com.