COVID-19 outbreak in Jefferson contained

Small number infected in March, health officer says

A coronavirus outbreak discovered the second week of March at a Jefferson County residential treatment facility has been contained but is still being investigated and monitored, county Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke said Wednesday.

The outbreak came to light at a daily Clallam County COVID-19 briefing during which it was disclosed that Clallam County’s 10th case of the coronavirus in three weeks was related to the Jefferson County outbreak.

The person lives in Clallam County, works in Jefferson County, and is at home in isolation, Dr. Allison Unthank, Clallam County health officer, said at the briefing.

Locke said fewer than five people at the treatment center were confirmed to be infected by the highly contagious respiratory ailment of the 27 who have tested positive for the coronavirus since March 6, when a Jefferson County man his 60s became the county’s first confirmed victim of the respiratory ailment.

Locke would not identify the treatment center for privacy reasons.

He also would not say exactly how many people there were stricken with the virus. None were hospitalized, he said.

“It doesn’t serve a public health purpose to put that number out,” Locke said.

“We did a dozen or so tests related to that outbreak. We believe it to be under control.

“We do testing for a long time after something is under control.

“It doesn’t serve a public health function to comment on an ongoing investigation.”

He said residents of the facility were isolated and quarantined.

Locke did not disclose the outbreak investigation when it began because he wanted to protect the privacy of those who caught the virus, he said.

“It was something that we felt [was] the best way we could bring it under control and maintain the cooperation of everyone involved to protect their privacy,” he said.

The person Wednesday became Clallam County’s 10th case of COVID-19 compared with the 27 in Jefferson County.

Clallam County health officials said they did not have the person’s age range or gender Wednesday afternoon.

Unthank discussed the Jefferson County outbreak at the briefing while explaining why health officials in Jefferson County have tested more residents than officials in Clallam, where the population is twice that of Jefferson.

“The new case is related to the Jefferson County outbreak,” she said.

“Because of that active outbreak, they are going to do very focused testing on people related to that outbreak.

“Jefferson Public Health had actually investigated it as part of their large outbreak investigation, and they just let us know that their address is actually in Clallam,” Unthank said.

“We are blessed in the fact that we have not yet had a large-scale outbreak, and so we haven’t done that kind of rapid deployment to an outbreak.

“Jefferson is in a very different situation, so they are, we are, testing to that outbreak right now.”

Unthank said Jefferson County also has more resources than Clallam.

Locke said Jefferson County had more test kits that Clallam at the outset and has a freestanding respiratory evaluation center set up at an unused clinic building.

In addition, he said several of the first eight or nine cases in Jefferson County were related to the Kirkland-area outbreak, where two dozen coronavirus deaths were linked to a nursing home.

Locke speculated that more people from Jefferson County than Clallam County go back and forth from Seattle by ferry on a regular basis.

As of Wednesday, 643 Jefferson County residents had been tested for COVID-19, with 598 tests coming back negative and 18 pending.

The percentage of positive tests is 4.3 percent, below the state average of about 8 percent.

As of Wednesday in Clallam County, 578 had been tested, with 526 negative and 42 pending. The positive cases were at 1.7 percent.

Six of Clallam County’s 10 people who had confirmed cases have recovered, Unthank said.

She said the county will soon receive 500 new test kits from the state Department of Health.

Unthank predicted there will be spot outbreaks in Clallam County within the next few weeks that should be quickly isolated.

She stressed the importance of staying home, washing hands and keeping 6 feet away or at two arms-length distance from people when in public.

“It is also very reasonable to add a homemade mask on top of that if you can keep that 6-feet social distance,” she said.

“It’s not essential, and it’s certainly not mandated.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended the wearing of cloth masks when in public to prevent those who have the virus, but are unaware of the infection, from passing it on to others.

The World Health Organization has said there is no evidence that wearing masks protects healthy people.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

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