Health officer: New COVID case numbers down, but don’t relax yet

PORT ANGELES — New COVID-19 cases on the North Olympic Peninsula continue to remain few, but Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke warned people not to drop their guard as restaurants and other businesses open back up.

Both Jefferson and Clallam counties had few new cases last week.

Clallam had no new cases reported either Saturday or Sunday and sits at 965 total cases since March. It has 17 active cases and zero patients in the hospital. The infection rate stood at 62 per 100,000 population during the past two weeks, in the state’s moderate-risk range for the first time since November.

Jefferson County has had 328 cases since March, with one new case late Friday and another new one Saturday, Locke said. It has 20 active cases in isolation, with an infection rate of 128.53 per 100,000, still in the state’s high-risk category.

Rate drop expected

Locke expects the infection rate to come down this week.

He will provide a COVID-19 update regarding vaccines to the Board of Jefferson County Commissioners at 9:45 a.m. Tuesday, a day later than normal due to the Presidents Day holiday.

Locke’s update can be viewed at www.tinyurl.com/jeffcomeetings.

Jefferson Healthcare is expecting new shipments of vaccines this week for people to receive their first dose, Locke said. Last week, the hospital was only able to give second doses to people who had already received the first dose because of limited supplies.

Jefferson County is still only able to vaccinate people 75 and older.

Locke said he will also address why “this is a tricky time” for the virus, where the area and the country could go in one of two directions.

Locke said that, with Phase 2 beginning Sunday, people need to continue to take precautions and not let down their guard.

“Rates are dropping, but they’re still quite high,” he said. “And more infectious variants [of COVID-19] are on the way.”

Avoid fourth wave

Locke said if people and businesses continue to take precautions with social distancing and masking, we can get through this time without a “fourth wave” of the virus taking off.

He called this period a “fork in the road,” in which the pandemic will either lessen in severity, or a new wave with more-infectious variants could take off.

“People should be encouraged,” Locke said. “Vaccines are effective, the supply issues will get better week by week, but that optimism could translate into higher risk behaviors.

“You don’t want to be fearful. Things are looking good, but the next three months or so are critical if we don’t want to deal with a fourth wave.”

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Sports editor Pierre LaBossiere can be reached by email at [email protected] news.com.

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