(Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

(Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

COVID-19 takes a life on Peninsula

Clallam man dies, 10 cases added Jefferson’s total rises by two

A Clallam County man in his 80s has died of COVID-19, the first death on the North Olympic Peninsula tied to the virus.

His death was announced Friday by the Clallam County Department of Health. The man had underlying health conditions, according to the county’s release.

“It was very clear from our interactions with this man’s family how deeply he was loved,” said Dr. Allison Berry Unthank, Clallam County health officer. “We mourn with them today.”

Unthank said she could not release the community that the man lived in, but said that he lived alone independently and was not a resident of a nursing facility. He also had not been traveling recently, she said.

(Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

(Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Clallam County experienced an increase of 10 new confirmed cases Friday and Saturday — five on Friday and five on Saturday. Unthank said they are all locally transmitted.

This gives Clallam County a total of 151 cases, including 26 active cases and 124 recovered cases. Four have been hospitalized. The infection rate for the past two weeks Friday was 68 cases per 100,000 population in Clallam County, Unthank said in Friday’s COVID-19 briefing.

Jefferson County had two new cases Saturday to give that county 59 total cases, including eight active cases. Not counting the two cases Saturday, Jefferson’s infection rate for the past two weeks was 15.7 per 100,000 population.

Jefferson County Health Officer Tom Locke said what is interesting about his county’s recent two cases is that both people were already in quarantine because they had come into contact with other people who had tested positive.

“So that’s good that they were in quarantine before they became contagious. That’s how you stop this,” Locke said.

(Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

(Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Locke also said that while Jefferson County has been lucky to not have any fatalities, some people with the virus became severely ill and were saved only thanks to the medical treatment they received in Seattle hospitals.

“Jefferson County has had some very close calls,” he said.

Cluster of cases

Unthank said the county is busy this weekend doing contact tracing on a “cluster of cases that are interlocked with each other.” The number of contacts within this cluster is upwards of 100 people, she said.

Two Port Angeles bar/eateries announced temporary closures on Friday because of a positive test tied to a bar and contact tracing for employees at the other business.

Bourbon West owner Jake Oppelt, announced the bar was closing until all contact tracing and testing could be finished because of a positive case tied to the bar. Next Door Gastropub remained open, he said on Facebook.

Unthank confirmed “we are working very closely with that bar management” on their contact tracing.

Sabai Thai also announced it closed for a couple of days at least while contacts are tested, although no members of the staff have tested positive for the virus. The Port Angeles eatery announced its temporary closure on Facebook, saying that owners had been informed of possible community contact.

Coincidentally, Unthank talked at length about bars and restaurants in her Friday COVID-19 update.

(Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

(Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Unthank stressed that bars and restaurants in Clallam County were doing a good job with safety measures and maintaining social distancing within their businesses.

But going out to bars and restaurants carries some risk, because people have to remove their masks to eat and drink, she said.

“It’s inherently a dangerous environment when you’re eating; you’re taking your mask off,” she said.

Locke ordered on Tuesday that all food service establishments must comply with state-mandated infection-control measures, including face coverings for employees, or risk having their permits suspended.

Unthank reiterated that what has been a particular problem in Clallam County, which has seen a recent uptick of cases, is parties and gatherings.

“We can’t act like it’s normal yet. This virus will require small sacrifices,” she said.

Unthank said people going to parties and gatherings are not respecting the work of medical personnel and first responders who have to deal with COVID-19.

“I struggle with people who aren’t sacrificing,” she said. “It’s disrespectful to them to go to parties right now.”


Sports Editor Pierre LaBossiere can be reached by email at plabossiere@peninsuladailynews.com.

Executive Editor Leah Leach contributed to this story.


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