PORT ANGELES — Clallam County’s health officer said she expects a local increase in COVID-19 cases in the fall and winter as schools reopen to in-person instruction and people move indoors due to dipping temperatures.
However, Dr. Allison Unthank also stressed that with widespread masking and social distancing, the increase could be kept to a minimum.
Unthank gave her weekly COVID-19 update Friday, looking ahead to fall and winter and the holiday season. She stressed that this will not be a normal holiday season and that people should keep their gatherings small to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Clallam County had one new case reported Saturday and one new one Friday for an even 250 cases reported since March.
Clallam has 11 active cases with one county resident currently hospitalized out of the county. The infection rate Saturday was 26 per 100,000 over the past two weeks, low in the “moderate risk” category that begins at 25 per 100,000.
Jefferson County did not report any new positive rest results Saturday. Jefferson has 72 total cases since March with two active cases. In fact, Jefferson County has had only two cases since late August. The infection rate is officially 0 per 100,000 though that number will likely be updated Monday with one new case reported last week in that county.
Schools in Clallam County are beginning some in-person instruction Monday.
“I think we have good plans in place and I think it will be done well,” Unthank said.
She said some parts of the country that fully opened their schools caused a big spike in cases among young people.
“We have seen that doesn’t work well. We have to do it carefully. We have to do it safely,” Unthank said. “We are planning to bring more kids back to school slowly and safely.”
Unthank said now is the time for the community to “double down” on COVID-19 guidelines and precautions with fall and winter arriving and schools reopening.
Instead of holding indoor gatherings, she suggested that people bundle up and remain outdoors as much as possible.
“As we move into fall, we do anticipate an increase in case rate,” Unthank said. “When we start school we’re going to have more connections in the community.”
Unthank also said people need to understand that they may have to change their holiday plans. With Halloween coming up, she said it’s still possible for kids in the area to go trick and treating, but that people should keep gatherings small.
“It is possible to do trick and treating relatively well and safely if you keep it within your household. Don’t meet up with large groups,” she said.
The same for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas celebrations, she said. She recommended people not travel and keep their holiday gatherings as small as possible with their immediately families.
“If we all do that — wear our masks, keep our distancing, avoid gatherings, we can get through fall and winter without a significant surge,” Unthank said.
”But if we don’t, we anticipate a surge that would surpass the initial surge we had in Washington state.”
Sports Editor Pierre LaBossiere can be reached at [email protected]