Health officers discuss school cases

No transmission in classroom seen, they say

Although some individual students have been confirmed to have COVID-19, health officers say they have seen no virus transmission in classes on the North Olympic Peninsula.

A student at Dry Creek Elementary and a student at Roosevelt Elementary in Port Angeles have been confirmed to have COVID-19 with the past two weeks. Three close contacts are in quarantine.

Nine cases have been reported in the Port Angeles School District during the school year. Safety protocols have prevented the spread of the virus to others within the schools so far, said Dr. Allison Berry, Clallam County health officer.

Students and staff who have tested positive during the school year are believed to have contracted the novel coronavirus outside of school, and transmission among students and staff hasn’t been found, said Berry and Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer.

Berry has noticed a rise in vaccinated parents gathering indoors with other families, but since none of the children can be vaccinated for COVID-19 yet, she does not recommend indoor gathering.

“Children are not immune to this virus,” she said. “Large groups of kids indoors does increase your risk of transmission.

“Now is a great time to get those kids outside. It’s very safe to let them play on the playground.”

Clallam County added four new cases Tuesday. Jefferson County’s first confirmed case this month was reported on Monday and the county is investigating three probable cases among a household.

Both health officers urge residents to continue to follow prevention guidelines such as mask wearing, social distancing, hand washing and avoiding large indoor gatherings and travel in order to prevent a potential fourth wave of infection that could set back recovery from the pandemic, they said.

“We still are investigating people with symptoms of COVID, and the reason behind that is we expect to find them,” Locke said. “We’ve never thought that the county could somehow stay at zero cases indefinitely, given how much COVID we’re still seeing in Washington state.

“The pandemic is by no way over,” he continued.

“People still have to realize that they’re at risk of exposure and acquiring the infection. It’s really premature to back off on [prevention guidelines].”

A spike in cases could lengthen the duration of the pandemic, Berry said.

“We’re very close to being done with this pandemic in the way that we have been in the last year,” she said. “We’re very close to seeing our lives get back to normal.

“If we keep doing what we’re doing, if we keep being cautious and keep scaling up vaccinations, we could see our lives return to much more normal by June or July of this year.

“The concerning thing is, if we let a fourth wave happen and cases skyrocket, that will extend this.

“So, instead of June or July, we won’t be done with this until October or November,” Berry said.

Today is the first day the state has allowed vaccinations to members of the Phase 1B2 category, which includes critical workers in congregate settings such as grocery stores, food banks, agriculture, courts, jails and corrections, as well as first responders not vaccinated under 1A, and people older than 16 who are pregnant or who have disabilities that put them at high risk for COVID-19 complications.

The Jamestown S’Klallam’s Sequim clinic was able to begin earlier. It also is vaccinating those older than 50 in addition to the others who are eligible. Appointments can be made at http://vaccine.clallam.net/register.

Those in prior phases remain eligible for vaccinations.

Jefferson County’s Chimacum High School Clinic on Sunday has appointments available for Jefferson residents who are eligible, and appointments can be made online at bit.ly/jeffcovax or by calling 360-344-9791.

Clallam County’s Port Angeles High School clinic this Saturday and Sunday has appointment opening today at 9 a.m. at http://vaccine.clallam.net/register or by phone at 360-417-2430.

Clallam County has confirmed 29 cases of COVID-19 so far this month, about 2.82 percent of the 1,030 cases confirmed during the past year, according to county data.

Jefferson County has one confirmed case this month, about 0.3 percent of the 337 cases confirmed in the past year, according to county Public Health data.

Thirteen COVID-19 cases were active as of Tuesday in Clallam County. Jefferson County had one active case.

Jefferson County is in the state’s low-risk category with a case rate of 3.13 per 100,000 population for the two weeks prior as of Saturday, while Clallam County is in the state’s moderate-risk category with a case rate of 34 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as to Tuesday.

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]

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