Seven new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Clallam County on Tuesday, while Jefferson County experienced its 13th day without any new infections.
The new cases, which raised Clallam County’s total to 89 since March, involved close contacts of previously confirmed cases, said Dr. Allison Unthank, county health officer.
It was the largest single-day increase reported in either county since the pandemic began.
“While it is a large number, I think it’s more a marker of the fact that we’re testing these folks, and also a marker of the importance of avoiding gatherings,” Unthank said.
“We knew that, in some of our recent cases, they were present at gatherings during their infectious period. That’s why we’re seeing relatively large numbers associated with them.”
Jefferson County’s COVID-19 case total held at 50 on Tuesday for a 13th consecutive day, Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke said.
In Clallam County, Fourth of July gatherings led to a one-week surge of 19 cases for the week ending July 15, followed by single-digit weekly increases before Tuesday’s spike.
“It looks like all of the people who tested positive that we got their results today were close contacts with prior cases,” Unthank said in a Tuesday interview.
“So they were anticipated cases. We don’t think these represent kind of broad transmission changes.”
Clallam County health officials were tracing contacts of the seven new cases Tuesday.
“Our goal is, through this contract tracing, to be able to contain it and get our numbers turning back around,” Unthank said.
“I think the biggest thing everyone else can do is avoid as much exposure to others as much as you can,” she said. “That gives us time to find everyone who might be infectious and get them into quarantine so they can’t expose others.”
Unthank said one recent case was connected to a Clallam County daycare facility. She would not identify the specific business.
“We are working closely with that daycare facility and with the children who could have potentially been exposed, and their parents,” Unthank said.
“I think the important takeaway from that is to know that, from what we have found, appropriate infection prevention was being practiced, and the risk of transmission among children is low.
“But because that risk is low and not zero, that’s why we do quarantine the exposed children,” she added.
Clallam County public health is no longer providing decade of age or gender for individual cases. Age distribution is being reported weekly on the county’s coronavirus webpage, www.clallam.net/coronavirus.
Jefferson County COVID-19 updates are available at www.jeffersoncountypublichealth.org.
Locke said the 13-day pause in new cases was preliminary evidence that Jefferson County citizens were abiding by physical distancing and masking orders.
“We know it works,” Locke said in a Tuesday interview.
“If people distance and mask and limit their contact with non-household members and restrict indoor encounters with people to the bare minimum, all those things work to prevent transmission.
“The wildcard for a place like Jefferson County is people getting exposed out-of-county because that can always happen,” he added.
“But I think masking is finally starting to catch on in Washington state.”
Locke said he was drafting Tuesday a proposed order that would allow the health department to pull food service licenses if restaurants and other businesses that serve food do not comply with state masking directives.
“About a week ago, King County issued an order along those lines, and so I’ve been working on a similar thing for Jefferson County,” Locke said.
“It still needs to go through some additional legal review,” he added, “but that is something that we’ll be doing in Jefferson County just to drive home the fact that this is really important.”
Locke said the vast majority of Jefferson County businesses and citizens were complying with masking requirements.
Recent surveys conducted by Jefferson County emergency management found masking compliance rates in excess of 95 percent, Locke said.
Unthank said King County’s food service order was “good policy” designed to enforce Gov. Jay Inslee’s masking directives.
“So far, we haven’t had the need for that because our businesses have been willing to voluntarily comply,” Unthank said.
“But if we had a large number of businesses that weren’t voluntarily complying, it would give us another tool in our toolbox to enforce.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected].