Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health official, said the county’ application for an early entry into Phase 2 may be sent to the state as soon as Friday after a series of meetings planned this week.
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have held steady at 50 on the North Olympic Peninsula, with 21 confirmed in Clallam County and 29 in Jefferson County.
Locke said it’s possible a new case will be added to Jefferson’s totals, though the county is still investigating. This latest possible case involves a person living in Arizona who likely caught the virus in that state. However, the person’s official county of residence is Jefferson County, so if it does turn out to be a positive case, it will be added to Jefferson’s total, though it appears this case has little connection to Jefferson County, Locke said.
Jefferson was one of the rural counties in the state that was given the option by Gov. Jay Inslee to apply for a waiver to allow some businesses to open earlier than the end of Phase 1, set for May 31.
For the past couple of weeks, county officials have been working on the waiver application.
So far, nine rural counties have been granted a waiver by the state with Whitman being approved Friday. Kittitas County has applied for a variance with its application pending.
Clallam County was not considered eligible for a waiver.
A joint Jefferson County meeting is set for 5 p.m. Tuesday to take input and to discuss Locke’s recommendations for reopening. The Jefferson County commissioners, Port Townsend City Council, the Port of Port Townsend, Jefferson County Public Utility District and the county Board of Health will be represented.
Locke said county commissioners possibly will meet Thursday in a special meeting to make a decision on the variance.
Clallam County has tested a total of 1,741 people for COVID-19, with 21 tests positive, 1,698 negative and 20 pending. Nineteen of those who tested positive for the disease have recovered, said Dr. Allison Unthank, Clallam County Health Officer.
The two newest cases in Clallam are a couple in their 50s, who were exposed to another confirmed case that was tested in Clallam County, but is a King County resident, Unthank said.
Jefferson County has tested 1,146 people, with 29 positive — 20 presumed to have been exposed in the county — 1,093 negative and 24 pending. A total of 27 COVID-19 patients have recovered, including a recent woman in her 90s, who Locke has said likely caught the virus several weeks ago but was just discovered last week.
Both counties have increased testing to all patients that show symptoms of COVID-19.
Patients must call for appointments to be tested, In Jefferson County, they call 360-344-3094. In Clallam County, they must call their primary care provider. If they do not have a provider, they can call 360-582-2930 in Sequim, 360-565-0550 in Port Angeles and 360-374-6998, ext. 2, on the West End between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.
Clallam County has been training 40 volunteer contact tracers, which amounted to having about 20 working about full time, Unthank has said.
She credits contact tracing — when a new case is found, public health officials contact the people the infected person had been in contact with to notify them of the exposure and possible infection — with the prevention of two potential outbreaks in large congregate care facilities in Clallam County.
“That’s just a reminder to folks, while our numbers are at 21, they very well could not have been except for the work that has been done, including and especially, people going out to get tested,” Unthank said.
“If people hadn’t gotten tested and hadn’t been rapidly contact traced and participated in that contact tracing, we wouldn’t have been able to prevent those outbreaks.
“So far that system is working quite well, we just encourage those folks to continue to get tested rapidly, work well with the department of public health while were work on isolation and contact tracing and we help do that, we can really help catch these cases quickly and isolate them so they don’t spread.”
The Clallam County Emergency Operations Center received a large shipment of personal protective equipment on Friday from the state, which they’re were organizing Friday, said Ron Cameron, Clallam County undersheriff.
“It filled up our EOC,” Cameron said. “That’s been a long-time coming, so it was nice to see.”
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at [email protected].