Makah Tribe strengthens its rules as COVID-19 cases rise

Businesses should consider remote work, official says

NEAH BAY — The Makah Tribe Council lifted on Tuesday a shelter-in-place order issued Monday, but it is returning to Phase 2 of its COVID-19 protection protocols, barring all indoor gatherings and limiting outdoor gatherings to 10 people.

The changes stem from four positive COVID-19 cases being confirmed between Monday and Tuesday, and a total of eight cases being confirmed since July 23, said TJ Greene, chairman of the Makah Tribe.

Visitors are currently barred from Neah Bay, which is tribal land.

The tribe will reevaluate its Phase 2 directive in about two weeks, Greene said in a phone interview Tuesday evening.

“The council is certainly appreciative of our community. They have worked with us to the best that we can to try to limit any spread of the disease in our community,” Greene said.

The Makah lifted the shelter-in-place order because all contacts have been traced, Greene said. Seventeen households are in quarantine.

Dr. Allison Berry, health officer for Jefferson and Clallam counties, supports the tribe in its decision to protect its members.

Clallam County added 21 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, while Jefferson County confirmed five new cases.

New cases continue to be caused primarily by unvaccinated residents traveling outside of their county, contracting the novel coronavirus and then returning to spread it to their family, friends and coworkers, Berry said.

Workplace outbreaks

Berry has been tracking several small workplace outbreaks — fewer than five cases — throughout Clallam County stemming from unvaccinated residents infecting their coworkers, especially in cases where they were not wearing face masks at work.

“We’re certainly seeing infections at work,” Berry said. “That seems to be primarily driven by unvaccinated people at the workplace, and unfortunately people who are unvaccinated and unmasking in the workplace, which is contrary to current industry rules.”

Berry does not name a facility with an outbreak if officials are able to trace all contacts, she has said.

Work remotely

With the continuing rise in cases and the workplace outbreaks continuing, Berry urges businesses able to do so to continue to have employees work remotely instead of returning to offices as some companies have been doing.

“Working from home is always safest, so if it’s possible do that and continue to do your work well, I think that’s a great option right now,” Berry said.

“If you do have to bring folks back into the office, it’s really important you look at the infection controls at the office.”

The infection control that Berry stressed as the most important is knowing the vaccine status of the workers, and requiring all unvaccinated to wear face masks.

It’s recommended that everyone wear face masks indoors regardless of vaccination status, Berry said.

Berry urges all residents 12 and older to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible and to continue to social distance and wear masks indoors to slow the spread of the current surge of infections.

Very serious

“Things are getting very serious very quickly,” Berry said. “We’re going to keep doing everything we can as a public health department to try and keep these numbers low and keep our health care system functioning and our economy functioning, but we’re going to need some help.

“We need the community to come together to get vaccinated, if you’re not vaccinated yet, and wear a mask regardless if you’re in an indoor space,” Berry said.

“We can’t do this alone. We really need the community to step up in our infection prevention,” she continued.

“If we do that, I think we can turn this around.”

Clallam County has confirmed a total of 1,731 cases since the pandemic began, according to county data. Seventeen residents have died of the disease.

Jefferson County has confirmed 523 cases since the start of the pandemic, according to county public health data. Four residents have died of the virus.

Both counties are well into the state’s high-risk category with case rates of 204 per 100,000 population for the past two weeks as of Tuesday in Clallam County, and 147.34 cases per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Saturday in Jefferson County.

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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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