PORT ANGELES — Clallam County has experienced its second COVID-19 death, an elderly woman, county health officer Dr. Allison Unthank announced Friday morning during her weekly update on the virus.
Unthank said it was a women over the age of 80 from the Sequim area. She had been hospitalized and died at Olympic Medical Center. Unthank was not aware of underlying health condition but said her age was a factor.
The county’s other COVID-19 death was an elderly man in August.
Unthank also announced that the county has seen four new positives Friday to give Clallam County 318 total cases since March. The county has a total of 28 active cases and an infection rate of 39 per 100,000, in the moderate risk category.
Unthank warned that there are “dramatic” increases in the infection rates and hospitalizations from COVID-19 happening both nationally and in the rest of the state.
She said that while Clallam and Jefferson counties so far have avoided those dramatic increases, local residents must double down on COVID-19 precautions such as masking, not traveling, social distancing and keeping gatherings small.
“We are in a position to turn things around but we need to make some rapid changes. It would be quite easy for this to get out of control” locally, Unthank said.
Unthank said that even nearby counties such as Kitsap, King and Pierce are seeing dramatic rises in cases. She pointed out that Gov. Jay Inslee recently made a proclamation that people traveling out of their communities must then go into a 14-day quarantine.
“I support this,” Unthank said. She also said people should avoid plane travel if they can.
On Thursday, there were 162,000 new COVID-19 infections reported in the U.S., with 2,915 in Washington. There were 622 new infections in King County, 527 in Pierce, 266 in Snohomish and 45 in Kitsap.
“We are going to do everything we can. We need all of the community to take this seriously,” Unthank said. “We need everyone to double down on efforts to prevent a significant rise here because we cannot tolerate much of a rise where we are.”
Unthank said that with the rapid rise of the infection rate statewide, there is a possibility of new restrictions coming down from the state similar to what Inslee and the state Department of Health implemented this spring. “At the state level, it’s something we should prepare for,” she said.
Unthank said as part of that effort, she asked people not to travel during the holiday season.
Unthank was also asked about the new Pfizer vaccine that was supposed to be available for frontline health care workers as early as December and to members of the public early next year. She said there are going to be challenges for rural counties because the vaccine has to be stored at -80 degrees Fahrenheit. She said this storage will need to involve using dry ice.
“There are going to be significant logistical hurdles,” she said. “We’re not the only rural area that will struggle with it.”
In summation, Unthank expressed optimism that the county was going to be able to get through latest COVID-19 crisis.
“We have seen rapid rises before and gotten through it. We can do it again,” she said.