PORT ANGELES — The Coast Guard will quarantine crews from vessels from COVID-19 virus watch-list countries that dock at Port Angeles — and other U.S. ports — if the ships or any crew members have been to those countries during their last 14 days at sea, a Coast Guard spokesman said.
Meanwhile, public health officials in Clallam and Jefferson counties continued Wednesday to prepare for what they say will be the inevitable arrival of the respiratory ailment on the North Olympic Peninsula.
A newly announced COVID-19 hotline provides information on the infection at 360-417-2430.
Results of three tests for COVID-19, a novel coronavirus, are pending for Jefferson County residents and one is pending for a Clallam County resident, health officials said Wednesday.
Countries targeted for COVID-19 concerns by the Centers for Disease Control are Italy, South Korea, Japan, Iran and China.
A Chinese export logging ship docked at the Port of Port Angeles in February, after an outbreak swept across China, port Deputy Executive Director John Nutter said.
It had been medically cleared by the Coast Guard and took on a load of logs from Alcan Forest Products before departing.
“People on the boat had not been to China in many months and had been operating on the East Coast and British Columbia for the last several months,” Nutter said.
“We are not aware of any ships from any of those other countries” docking in Port Angeles, he added.
As of Wednesday, the CDC was recommending only nonessential travel to Italy, Iran, South Korea and China and placed an alert to “practice enhanced precautions” for travelers to Japan.
Vessels visiting Japan or with crew members who have visited that country remained on the Coast Guard’s restricted list as of Wednesday,
Most quarantining is taking place at the ports of Tacoma and Seattle, Seattle-area Coast Guard District 13 spokesman Steve Strohmaier said.
“Everybody is pretty understanding, and the amount of shipping has decrease slightly at this point,” he said.
He said Coast Guard Air Station/Sector Field Office Port Angeles personnel are being urged to take the same precautions as area residents to avoid COVID-19: frequent hand-washing, minimal touching of the face, staying home if feeling ill, coughing into the inside of an elbow, and maintaining a spatial distance from people who are sick. The recommended distance is 6 feet.
More than 50 Clallam County health care, fire district and other personnel involved in responding to COVID-19 met Wednesday morning in the Emergency Operations Center in the basement of the county courthouse.
They have weekday briefings at 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Eleven people had died from COVID-19 in the U.S. as of Wednesday afternoon: nine in King County, one in Snohomish County, and one in California.
A participant at the 10 a.m. briefing asked about “the risk level” of contracting the virus in Clallam and King counties.
“We suspect in King County they have community transmission right now,” Health Officer Allison Berry Unthank said.
“Here we are saying the risk is elevated, but it is not risky to be in the general public.
“The risk to the general public to be in the world is fine, but the risk for our folks who are interacting with the public who are sick, for our health care providers, that is elevated.
“That’s why we are not closing public events, because we don’t think they are dangerous to the general population.”
COVID-19 is transmitted by being in close contact with someone who is coughing or sneezing for a long period of time, she said.
Health officials have said that exposure must occur for at least an hour at a distance of within 6 feet, and that transmission occurs from particulates, or droplets, from sneezing and coughing.
COVID-19 lasts for two hours on hard surfaces and can be eliminated by standard housecleaning measures, Unthank said.
Jefferson County Health Officer Tom Locke said the three samples awaiting test results do not include two Chimacum School District students the school district said remained home Wednesday because of concerns over COVID-19.
They were not directly exposed but “had contact with someone who may or may not have been exposed to another person with the virus,” the district said in a communication Wednesday morning to district families from Assistant Superintendent Art Clarke.
“Still, as a precautionary measure, the students will not return to school until their test results are clear,” Clarke said.
However, district spokesman Nick Shanmac said later Wednesday the two students are safe to return to school, according to Shanmac’s conversation with Locke on Wednesday afternoon.
Another advisory will be sent to parents this morning.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].