More COVID-19 cases in Clallam; none new in Jefferson

Four more Clallam County residents have been reported Wednesday as having tested positive for COVID-19, including two related to outbreaks at Olympic Medical Center and a residential facility that the county health officer declined to name.

Jefferson County reported no more confirmed cases Wednesday.

Jefferson County health officials were investigating a possible case involving an out-of-state resident, county Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke said Wednesday.

The investigation is to see if the person was exposed to the disease in Jefferson County. Since the person does not live in Jefferson County, that illness will not be counted in the county’s statistics.

In the same way, the case of a fifth person confirmed to have contracted the novel coronavirus in Clallam County will not appear in the local data because he does not live in the county, Dr. Allison Unthank, county health officer, said Wednesday.

The four new cases, which were unrelated, brought Clallam County’s COVID-19 case total to 42.

“It’s certainly concerning to see a rise in cases like that,” Unthank said Wednesday.

“Given the outbreaks, we do anticipate quite a few more cases in the coming days.”

She said Monday that an outbreak is defined as two or more cases confirmed in a specific site in a short period of time.

OMC disclosed an outbreak earlier this week.

The Clallam County Board of Health decided on Tuesday to delay applying for entry into Phase 3 after Unthank said she thought it would be unsafe in light of rising cases.

Confirmed cases in Jefferson County, which has applied to enter Phase 3, remained at 38.

Masking compliance has been estimated at 90 percent in parts of Jefferson County and 40 percent in parts of Clallam County, health officials said.

No coronavirus deaths have been reported in either county.

Clallam outbreaks

Two health care workers at OMC tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend, the medical center reported.

A second outbreak occurred at a residential facility that Unthank would not name.

Two cases were confirmed Wednesday by the Serenity House executive director.

Unthank has said public health officials will not release the places where people who contracted the disease live or work because “if we start sharing people’s personal information, they won’t talk to us for contact tracing, and we need that contact tracing to figure out these outbreaks.”

Health officials conducted 228 COVID-19 tests at OMC on Tuesday. Those test results were expected today or Friday, Unthank said in a Wednesday briefing at the county courthouse.

In a later interview, Unthank said the OMC staff members who had coronavirus wore the appropriate personal protective equipment around their patients.

“We think the risk to patients is low,” Unthank said.

“I’ve seen a lot of messaging going around about how these staff members are endangering the public, and that’s not true.

“They’re really dedicated people who were really cautious in their PPE around patients but unfortunately just didn’t realize they needed to mask around each other when they get out of the patient room,” Unthank said.

Those who were exposed in both outbreaks have been contacted by health officials and tested for COVID-19, Unthank said.

Take precautions

Unthank stressed the need for physical distancing and masking to prevent a large-scale outbreak in Clallam County.

“This is the moment where we have to double down on physical distancing and masking so that we can bend that curve back down,” Unthank said.

“If we miss this window and don’t follow those recommendations in the next week, it’s going to be incredibly hard to stop this.”

Unthank said the upcoming Fourth of July weekend would be a “major wild card” in the effort to control the virus.

“I love Independence Day, but I want you to celebrate in small amounts with your own family, with your own household,” Unthank said.

“Please, no parties. That can really spread the infection quite quickly.”

Locke suggested people wear masks, even outdoors, if people cannot maintain at least 6 feet of physical distance.

“As we move into summer, we’re really encouraging people to get outdoors, get exercise, enjoy themselves, enjoy their friends and family, but do it in a safe way,” Locke said.

“There’s a safe way and there’s an unsafe way, and the difference between those two is a series of behavioral choices that people have to make.”

Locke said the arguments against face coverings like personal liberty and choice were “bogus and irrelevant issues.”

“What’s important is that people accept that this is an infectious disease pandemic,” Locke said.

“It doesn’t care what your political beliefs are, and it will only be controlled by people changing their behavior.”

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected].

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