New cases of COVID-19 appear to be fading on the North Olympic Peninsula, but county health officer Dr. Allison Unthank urged residents to stay vigilant until there are widespread vaccinations against the virus, likely sometime next year.
“It is important to remember that this is not over. The numbers have been low because of people working hard and social distancing,” Unthank said during a Friday update.
“In the past, when we do well for a couple of weeks, that when people let their guard down, they start gathering, they stop wearing their masks. And numbers spike again.
“We’ll be dealing with this until mid-next year. We can’t let our guard down until we’re all vaccinated, or at least most of us are vaccinated,” Unthank said.
Jefferson County has only had one positive test this past month. The county has an infection rate of just 3 per 100,000 over the past two weeks and health officer Dr. Tom Locke said that number could drop down to zero sometime this week if there are no new positives.
Clallam County may see schools re-open to some in-person learning as soon as Oct. 5 if the infection rate from COVID-19 remains low, Unthank has said.
All but one Jefferson County school district opened this fall with a hybrid system of some remote and some in-person teaching (Quilcene elected fully remote education) , while Clallam County schools opened with almost all students studying remotely.
Clallam County had one new COVID-19 case Saturday, a locally contracted case, and has six active cases, including one person in the hospital.
The county’s infection rate is 21 per 100,000 over the past two weeks, which is considered in the “low risk” category. In order to safely reopen schools to in-person instruction, the infection rate has to be below 75 per 100,000.
Clallam County has had 233 total positives for COVID-19 since March.
Jefferson County has had 71 positives since March and has four active cases total.
Locke credited a high compliance rate in masking and social distancing for Jefferson’s low infection rate.
“We have seen very high compliance rate,” he said. “People see masking as something you do to protect others.”
Unthank said in her Friday briefing that “things do look good for some in-person schooling by October 5.”
“We will go slow and make sure we can do it safely,” Unthank said.
Unthank said experts have prioritized opening schools before completely reopening all businesses. She said officials have learned that there is only so much close, personal contact people can have to keep the infection numbers low.
Both Unthank and Locke were concerned about a big increase in cases after the Labor Day weekend. The area saw a big growth in cases after the Fourth of July weekend when a number of people caught the virus after parties and gatherings. Unthank said it’s still a little early to tell if the area is completely out of the woods for Labor Day Weekend cases.
Sports Editor Pierre LaBossiere can be reached at [email protected]