Jefferson County now in low risk category

Downward trend continues in both counties; officials say flu shots will help hospitals

Jefferson County has dropped into the state’s low-risk category for COVID-19 transmission, going eight days without a new case.

Clallam County is now three days without confirming a new case and continues to be in the moderate-risk category with 41 cases per 100,000 population for the past two weeks, continuing its downward trend.

Jefferson County’s case rate as of Monday was 12.5 cases per 100,000, but the numbers on the county’s website won’t be updated until today, said Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer.

“I wanted staff to take the day off if they could,” Locke said. “The important way to look at these numbers, too, is by trend.

“When you’re dealing with a relatively small population, one or two cases can make the numbers jump around,” Locke added. “The week-to-week trend is an important thing to look for, and the trend is definitely down.”

While the downward trends are promising, both Locke and Clallam County Health Officer Dr. Allison Unthank are urging people to not let down their guard, especially because of the Labor Day holiday weekend, after spikes in cases were reported following Memorial and Independence Day weekends.

“We will see the cases from the holiday weekend, if we do have a spike, in a week or two,” Unthank said. “So, we can’t get too excited until we see those results, but we are hopeful that this means that — especially with the recent spike in cases — that people are starting to buckle down and take this seriously.

“One thing that we’ve definitely learned before is that once we see numbers fall, folks have a tendency to let their guard down entirely a little too fast, so reminding folks that we’re not through this yet, but this is all very promising,” she continued.

“I think if people can continue to keep doing what we’re doing, we can do quite well.”

The influenza vaccine is now available for the public, and both health officers are urging residents to get vaccinated as soon as possible in order to avoid a bad flu season combined with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Flu will still be with us and, like COVID-19, flu is a killer virus,” Locke said. “We see tens of thousands of people die of influenza every year.

“I very much agree that it is important to get a flu shot for its own benefit, but also it’s going to be hard for us to differentiate [the flu] from COVID-19, and it also puts extra stress on the hospitals in terms of having to manage that illness,” he continued. “I think that, every year, there has been a strong argument for flu vaccinations, but this year it’s the strongest ever.”

The current social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing measures people are taking are expected to help limit the spread of the flu and colds this season as well, Unthank said.

“I think another thing we’ve been learning more about is the effect of viral load on people,” she said. “So, even if you don’t do everything perfectly, if they do a lot of the stuff, wearing a mask, limiting the amount of people, moving things outdoors, it can make a lot of difference in how severe your infection is if you do get exposed.”

Clallam County has had 221 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since March, with 199 cases recovered as of Friday and one death, officials reported.

Jefferson County has had 70 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since March, with 55 cases recovered as of Friday and no deaths, officials reported.

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

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