PORT ANGELES — As expected, it’s finally here: The first case of COVID-19 in a Clallam County resident has been reported to health officials.
The county’s announcement came the same day that Black Ball Ferry Line declared a suspension of service between Port Angeles and Victoria from March 30-April 30 due to the coronavirus.
The Clallam County case brings to five the number of cases of the unique coronavirus that have been detected in residents of Clallam and Jefferson counties, four of which were reported in Jefferson over the past few weeks.
The Clallam County man, who is in his 60s, was exposed through a King County connection, county Health and Human Services said Wednesday in a press release.
“He is at home in isolation and doing well,” Emergency Operations Center spokesperson Peter Raiswell said in an interview.
The newest coronavirus case was revealed as county and health officials continued to prepare measures to deal with the virus, including for the homeless.
In Clallam County, Commissioner Randy Johnson was planning to meet with Port of Port Angeles officials Wednesday in preparation to lease up to about 70,000 square feet of a port building.
It will be used as a COVID-19 shelter for homeless people with coronavirus symptoms such as coughing and respiratory ailments.
The project is moving forward in partnership with Serenity House of Clallam County, Johnson said Wednesday.
Port Executive Director Karen Goschen said up to 70,000 square feet is available at the port’s 1010 Building near William Fairchild International Airport and expects a lease will be signed once the details are ironed out.
The Clallam County courthouse also closed off or restricted access to several offices.
Walk-in traffic at the Auditor’s, Assessor’s and Treasurer’s offices was cut off, and the Department of Community Development was limiting counter customers to two at a time.
Olympic National Park also shut down visitor center offices Tuesday, closing Hurricane Ridge Road at the Heart ‘O The Hills entrance station, although hiking trails remained open.
And Safeway stores — there are two in Port Angeles, one in Sequim and one in Port Townsend — will begin reserving 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. every Tuesday and Thursday for seniors over 60 and other shoppers vulnerable to the coronavirus, such as pregnant women, those with compromised immune systems and those advised to stay at home, Albertsons, Safeway’s parent company, said Wednesday.
As of Wednesday, 102 tests had been conducted on Clallam County resident with 19 coming back negative and 82 pending, according to Clallam County Health and Human services.
In Jefferson County, 242 people had been tested, with 103 negative results and 135 tests pending, according to Jefferson County Public Health.
As in Clallam County, the four Jefferson County cases are presumed to be from out-of-county exposure.
“We’ve had a bunch more tests go out this week,” county Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke said.
“We were deliberately trying to do as many tests as we could get in, or at least a sampling of sick people, to see if the infection was extensive.”
Community-level transmission has not been confirmed in Jefferson County but is likely in the near future, Locke said in a press release Tuesday.
The newest case of COVID-19 came as no surprise to Clallam County Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry Unthank.
“We anticipated we would start to see more cases here and we are,” she said in the press release.
Individuals the man had close contact with identified as a “small group” have been asked to self quarantine of isolate themselves at home, the release said.
The man most recently infected is not connected to the two county residents who had contact with COVID-19-positive King County residents over the weekend, Raiswell said.
Test results in that case, which involved tracking down people the two residents had contact with, are pending, Unthank said.at the briefing.
It was unclear whether the county’s first COVID-19 case would open the way for more test kits, as Unthank had suggested in the Tuesday briefing would occur once Clallam County had a case.
Black Ball’s announcement came as the U.S. and Canada agreed to temporarily close the northern border to non-essential traffic.
Trade will not be affected, President Donald Trump said in a Wednesday morning tweet announcing the move.
Black Ball said in its declaring the temporary shutdown that last sailing of the MV Coho from Port Angeles will depart at 2 p.m. March 29. with the last sailing from Victoria departing at 4 p.m. the same day.
“Unfortunately, we are making some difficult announcements,” Black Ball co-owner Ryan Malane said in an email, “just like many of our industry colleagues.”
About 80 percent of COVID-19 cases can be managed at home through quarantine or isolation, but homeless residents don’t have a home to go to to get well, Locke said.
He said Jefferson County officials are working on measures similar to those being set up for homeless residents in Clallam County.
Johnson said Clallam County recently received $433,000 in state funds to take care of the homeless population during the pandemic, money that will help cover what could be a lease with the port of four months for homeless people showing symptoms. The lease by law will be at market rate, Goschen said.
Healthy Families of Clallam County and Forks Abuse Program have also requested funding from the grant.
Johnson said he hopes to have the shelter in operation by April 1.
Jefferson County and Port Townsend officials have closed administrative office deemed non-essential.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.