Jefferson Phase 3 stalled; cases added to Peninsula total

OMC announces 389 tests returned negative

PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County will have to wait at least another two weeks to move to Phase 3 in the state’s Safe Start reopening plan after Gov. Jay Inslee announced a two-week hold on counties moving to the next phase.

Also, Olympic Medical Center announced Saturday that no new positives were returned last week. The hospital had sent out 389 tests after two employees tested positive for the virus and all came back negative, said Bobby Beeman of OMC in a press release.

Inslee announced a two-week “pause” in moving counties to the next level on Thursday because of an increase in cases statewide. In particular, King, Snohomish, Franklin, Benton and Yakima counties all have had large rises in COVID-19 positives.

Jefferson County on Monday applied to move to Phase 3. However, because of the governor’s announcement, Jefferson will wait until July 16 at the earliest to move to Phase 3, said Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer.

“It’s nothing specific to our county. It’s statewide,” Locke said.

On Saturday, Jefferson and Clallam counties reported one new case each.

Jefferson lost one from its total as it turned out that one case was a King County resident. However, a new positive was reported Saturday, a woman in her 70s.

That brings the total of confirmed cases on the North Olympic Peninsula to 84, with 45 in Clallam and 39 in Jefferson .

Clallam’s new case Saturday was not related to two outbreaks at Olympic Medical Center and Serenity House, said Dr. Allison Unthank, Clallam County health officer.

The two OMC employees were from the same department, which has not been identified. They tested positive for COVID-19 on June 26. County officials immediately began contact tracing with patients and employees exposed to these staff members.

At the state’s request, OMC will offer an additional free testing opportunity to employees Wednesday.

“We wanted to provide peace of mind to our employees and the community by offering testing to our employees even though they have no symptoms,” said OMC interim CEO Darryl Wolfe.

“We are confident in our infection control practices here at Olympic Medical Center, and this incident serves as a reminder to all of us to be diligent out in the community by wearing face coverings and masks, washing our hands, avoiding crowds and maintaining physical distance.”

Wolfe thanked Unthank, other county health department personnel and the county;s incident command and OMC leadership teams “for leaping into action to determine the scope of this cluster of COVID-19 and contain it.”

Two cases have been found at Serenity House after an employee tested positive and tests were administered to 114 staff members and clients. Because COVID-19 has an incubation period of up to two weeks, Unthank will oversee another round of testing on Monday.

Clallam County has had a total of seven new cases last week. That led to a delay in applying for Phase 3.

Clallam County had 535 COVID-19 tests listed as pending Saturday. Jefferson had 49 tests pending.

Jefferson delayed

Locke said he supports Inslee’s decision to delay any counties moving to move Phase 3.

“There’s upward trends in new cases and it’s not just east of the mountains. Snohomish [county] is thinking about rolling back from Phase 2,” Locke said.

Locke said the recent uptick in cases shows that Washington residents must get more serious about wearing masks in public and about social distancing.

He has largely praised Jefferson County residents for their compliance with the county’s masking mandate. That mandate is now statewide and Inslee has now ordered businesses to stop maskless customers at the door beginning later this week.

Locke said the other day at a grocery store in Sequim that he spotted only one person not wearing a mask. And he remain optimistic that Washington will eventually gain the upper hand on the virus if people mask up.

“We can bring it under control,” Locke said.

________

Pierre LaBossierre can be reached at plabossiere@peninsuladailynews.com.

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