Makah, Quileute tribes extend reservation closure

Visitors barred from Neah Bay, La Push

The Makah Tribe announced Thursday that it will keep its reservation in Neah Bay closed to visitors through Oct. 1 as a continued precaution against COVID-19.

The Quileute Tribe will keep its La Push land closed to visitors until at least June 14, when the tribal council will reevaluate it’s status on whether to change its restrictions or remain closed, according to a letter released by the tribe on May 7.

The Makah’s decision is to protect its members from possibly being infected with COVID-19 by a visitor from a higher-risk area such as King or Pierce counties while the tribe continues its vaccination efforts of its members, said Timothy J. Greene, council chairman.

“Right now that’s what the council decided will be the safest for our community going forward,” he said.

The tribe has heard from longtime visitors to the reservation that they look forward to visiting again in the future and support their decision to remain closed to the public, Greene said.

“We just thank the public support in respecting the tribe’s decision to protect its membership,” Greene said.

The tribe may reconsider opening sooner, if the tribe has reached 90 percent of its members vaccinated — it was just over 70 percent as of Thursday — and other areas of the state also have reached high vaccination levels and low case rates, Greene said.

The Quileute Tribe’s decision is also based on protecting its residents, according to the letter.

“In the best interest of the Quileute Tribe and the health, safety, and welfare of our people, the Quileute Tribal Council will continue to enforce restrictions and limitations to protect the Quileute community,” the letter May 7 letter said.

Both Clallam County Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry and Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer, support the tribes’ actions.

“I respect their decision,” Berry said. “There’s really been a lot of incredible work done by the tribes, and they know best what their citizens need.”

On Thursday, Clallam County confirmed six additional cases of COVID-19, which are contacts of prior confirmed cases who contracted the novel coronavirus while traveling, and Jefferson County held steady with no new cases for the sixth straight day, Berry and Locke said.

“It’s great. Unfortunately, we don’t expect it to last,” Locke said regarding the lack of new cases in Jefferson County. “There is a lot of COVID activity still in Washington state.”

Locke hopes the disease activity will start to decline rapidly statewide.

“In outbreaks of communicable diseases, (cases) can go up rapidly, but they can come down rapidly, too, if you keep your guard up,” he said.

Both health officers continue to urge residents to get vaccinated as soon as possible. All Washington residents 12 and older can be vaccinated against COVID-19 at most pharmacies and health clinics.

Jefferson County is hosting Pfizer vaccination clinics Friday at Chimacum and Quilcene school districts for students 12 and older in those districts, and the school officials have provided the vaccination information and consent forms to their parents and guardians, Locke said.

Jefferson County Emergency Management will host a second-dose Moderna clinic from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at Chimacum High School, followed by a Johnson & Johnson vaccine clinic from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. that day at the same location.

Appointments for the Saturday clinics can be made by calling 360-344-9791 or going to https://prepmod.doh.wa.gov//appointment/en/reg/5092606201. Walk-ins will be accepted for the J&J clinic, according to the county’s website.

The state has a vaccination locator at https://vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov, which allows users to see where appointments are available and which vaccine will be used. While all state residents 12 and older are eligible to be vaccinated, anyone younger than 18 can receive only Pfizer’s vaccine.

The full calendar for pop-up clinics in Clallam County can be viewed at https://tinyurl.com/PDN-Clallam PopUps.

Clallam County has confirmed 92 cases so far this month, about 6.94 percent of the 1,326 cases reported since the pandemic began, according to county data.

A total of 22 cases have been confirmed so far this month in Jefferson County, about 5.34 percent of the 412 total cases confirmed in the past year, according to county public health data.

Thirty-four COVID-19 cases were active as of Thursday in Clallam County, with three patients currently hospitalized, two of whom are in the Intensive Care Unit. Jefferson County had two active cases Wednesday.

The Peninsula has had 13 deaths related to COVID-19, with 10 in Clallam County and three in Jefferson County.

Both counties are in the state’s moderate-risk category, with Clallam County having a case rate of 67 per 100,000 population for the past two weeks as of Thursday, while Jefferson County has a case rate of 50.16 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Saturday.

Clinics this week in Clallam County include:

Schools, for all who are 12 or older — Sequim High School, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, offering the second dose of Pfizer vaccine.

Drop-in — Downtown Port Angeles (on Front Street, where the skating rink was earlier this year), 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Moderna and the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Mass clinic, second dose, by appointment only — Port Angeles High School, 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Pfizer.

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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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