PORT ANGELES — Clallam County added seven more COVID-19 cases Saturday and 23 Friday as the county’s two-week infection rate climbed to 149 cases per 100,000 population.
Jefferson County posted on its Department of Health website that it had three more cases Friday. Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke said there were no new cases reported Saturday.
Health officials have reported 413 cases in Clallam County since March, up from 383 on Thursday. There are 118 active cases in Clallam County.
The infection rate of 149 per 100,000 was an all-time high. Clallam County Health Officer Dr. Allison Unthank said that figure will be updated Monday. She added that the county is developing a list of medical personnel who can be called upon to help.
Jefferson County has had 142 cases confirmed. Locke said the infection rate is at about 138 per 100,000 over the past two weeks with 22 active cases in the county.
“We are certainly experiencing a significant rise in cases locally, similar to what we are seeing in much of the rest of the state and the rest of the country,” Unthank said in her weekly COVID-19 briefing Friday in which she announced the 23 new cases that day.
“This next week, those numbers are going to get worse before they get better.”
Unthank said the rise in cases was being driven primarily by social gatherings. People are contracting COVID-19 at gatherings with multiple households and then spreading the virus at the workplace, Unthank said.
“People are slipping in their COVID-19 safety management,” Unthank said.
”We’re seeing people getting closer together, taking off their masks around each other and now we’re seeing transmission in the workplace.
“The workplace is really where we get the closest to people indoors for the longest period of time,” she added.
“So I really want to stress the importance of not only limiting social gatherings, but also being very thoughtful about your COVID-19 safety at work.”
Clallam County’s test positivity had risen to 6.4 percent as of today (Friday).
The goal is to keep the positivity rate below 2 percent to keep the virus in check. Jefferson County’s positivity rate is 1.16 percent.
“When it gets above 2 percent, what it means is that you are missing cases,” Unthank said.
”So there are people out there who are positive and don’t know.”
Health officials say wear a mask, maintain 6 feet of physical distancing and keep social circles small to help stop COVID-19.
As of today (Friday), Clallam County health officials reported 15 COVID-19 hospitalizations, 293 recoveries and two deaths. (The state Department of Health reports three deaths in Clallam County but Unthank has said that is a mistake. A call to the state department about the figure was not returned.)
Two people remained in the hospital today, according to the Clallam County Department of Health website.
Unthank said the recent spike in cases had put a strain on the health care system and testing infrastructure.
“We are going to put out a request for folks in our community who have active medical licenses who would be willing to work,” Unthank said.
Physicians have been asked if they would be willing to work elsewhere in the county, and recently-retired medical doctors are being asked if they would be wiling to re-activate their credentials.
“That doesn’t mean that we’re calling on you right now, but we want to build that list of folks who would be willing to deploy to support our health care infrastructure if we needed them,” Unthank said.
Clallam County schools remain open at limited capacity with COVID-19 safety protocols. There had been no reports of COVID-19 transmission among student in schools.
“I have incredible confidence in our schools and their ability to follow our COVID-19 safety protocols,” Unthank said.
“Given that we’ve not seen COVID-19 transmission within our schools and our schools are following those safety protocols, I do believe it is safe to continue in-person instruction, but I understand the concern around it.”
County health officers and school superintendents each have the authority to close schools.
“At this point, we are following the data and making decisions based on the data we have in front of us,” Unthank said.
“I think it is safe to continue school at this point.”
Statewide totals from the illness caused by the coronavirus are at 139,543 cases and 2,619 deaths, up from 137,411 cases and 2,603 deaths Thursday. Washington’s population is estimated at about 7.6 million, according to U.S. Census figures from July 2019.
Unthank encouraged the public to double down on infection prevention efforts.
“Keep following those guidelines,” she said.
”We can turn this around, but it will take about two to three weeks, which means it will get worse before it gets better.”
Locke said he is concerned that this huge uptick in cases locally and statewide is happening before the Thanksgiving holiday.
“After the holiday, this would be a little more expected,” he said.
Locke said health officials continue to recommend that people not travel for the holidays or have outside guests.
“The best thing you can do is cancel those plans,” he said.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected].