Fourteen new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed Wednesday on the North Olympic Peninsula, with most of the cases being family groups.
Clallam and Jefferson county health officials are urging residents to keep their guard up and follow COVID-19 prevention guidelines, especially since the possibility of the more contagious U.K. variant of the novel coronavirus reaching the Peninsula is higher now that it was found in Washington state over the weekend.
Ten cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Clallam County on Wednesday, while Jefferson County confirmed four new cases, according to county health officials.
The four cases in Jefferson County are a family of four who were already in quarantine due to exposure and so didn’t expose anyone else to the virus, said Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer.
“This is how we like the system to work,” Locke said. “We identify people who are exposed and then when they’re in quarantine if they test positive, they haven’t been out in the community during their infectiousness.”
Two of the new cases in Clallam County are part of the residential setting outbreak that is under investigation, raising that total to eight, while the remaining eight cases are among households who traveled out of county, said Dr. Allison Berry, Clallam County health officer.
Locke and Berry have previously stated they will not release a location publicly if their departments are able to effectively contract-trace potential exposures.
Berry does not see public risk regarding the residential setting outbreak.
“I see it as a potential risk to our numbers, because you can tend to have cases spread when people live close together,” Berry said. “But, we’re not seeing a generalized risk to the public from this one.”
Jefferson Healthcare officials were waiting to hear word late afternoon Wednesday if the hospital would be considered for a shipment of Pfizer’s vaccine next week, so that the large vaccination clinic can resume. This week, the hospital did not receive any Pfizer vaccine and only about 200 doses of Moderna’s vaccine, said Amy Yaley, spokesperson for Jefferson Healthcare.
The drive-through clinic at Jefferson Healthcare will be open today for patients of the 1A group that are due for their second shot. Those second doses were saved by the hospital for this use and those people have already been contacted, Yaley said.
Locke urges residents to remain cautious — especially those aged 20 to 39, a population with the fastest growing rate of new cases nationwide — and continue to wear properly fitted face masks (masks should cover the nose and mouth and lie flush against the face), practice social distancing and wash hands frequently, especially given the appearance of the U.K. variant.
“It’s out there and it’s going to spread because it is more contagious,” Locke said. “It’s going to become more and more prevalent and it just underscores the importance of the masking, the distancing and the hand washing.
“There are people who that are sick of doing that and they’re starting to take risks again or they somehow convince themselves that the threat has passed and that is not true. The risk is as great as it’s ever been,” he continued.
“If people are not careful, the variant could spread even faster than it might otherwise.”
Berry is concerned about the U.K. variant potentially causing a surge in cases and recommends people evaluate what face masks they are using to protect themselves and others.
Surgical and N95s are fine, as long as worn properly over the nose and mouth and tight against the face, she said. Cloth masks need to be made of at least two layers of cloth to be effective and people need to wash them regularly; cloth masks also must be worn correctly, she said.
“I’m still seeing people wear them below their nose, and that doesn’t protect you or the people around you,” she said.
Clallam County has received enough vaccine this week to resume vaccination clinics next week, with scheduling for the Sequim and Port Angeles clinics going live today (Thursday) at 9 a.m. at vaccine.clallam.net/register, Berry said.
So far this month, Clallam County has confirmed 177 cases, about 19.3 percent of the 916 it has confirmed since March, according to Clallam County Public Health data.
Jefferson County has confirmed 70 cases of COVID-19, about 24.1 percent of the 290 it has confirmed since March, according to Jefferson County Public Health data.
Forty-one COVID-19 cases were active as of Wednesday in Clallam County, and three people were hospitalized with two in the Intensive Care Unit.
Jefferson County had 11 active cases.
The test positivity on the Peninsula — the percentage of tests returned positive — was 3.3 percent in Clallam County for Jan. 10-24, and 2.37 percent in Jefferson County for Jan. 18-24.
Clallam County had a case rate of 85 per 100,000 population for the two weeks prior as of Wednesday, however that doesn’t include the Wednesday’s cases due to reporting delays, said Berry.
Jefferson County’s case rate was at about 72.10 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Saturday.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.