No new COVID-19 cases on Peninsula

No new cases of COVID-19 were reported on the North Olympic Peninsula on Tuesday.

Clallam County’s case total held at 136 on Tuesday and Jefferson County’s tally remained at 55, the two county health officers said.

Clallam County’s two-week infection rate was 53.9 cases per 100,000 population while Jefferson County’s infection rate was 15.7 cases per 100,000, state and county health officials said.

Low risk is considered below 25 cases per 100,000 over 14 days.

“We’re certainly not seeing the kind of level of transmission that they’re having to deal with in Clallam and Kitsap (counties), which is certainly good,” Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke said Tuesday.

“As I explained to the commissioners yesterday, this can all change overnight.”

Jefferson County residents had largely followed infection prevention measures such as masking, physical distancing and staying home when sick, Locke said.

“I think the vast majority of people are very supportive and they understand the stakes,” Locke said.

“With many elderly people, over a third of the population in Jefferson County, COVID-19 could be a life-or-death kind of issue for Jefferson County residents, so people take it real seriously.”

No COVID-19-related deaths had been reported on the Peninsula as of Tuesday.

Clallam County Health Officer Dr. Allison Unthank emphasized the importance of limiting social interactions to prevent COVID-19 transmission.

“We’ve continued to see cases from folks primarily though social activities, so we’re really reminding folks to keep those interactions short and distanced,” Unthank said.

“You can see friends and family. You just really want to keep that 6 feet of distance between you. And the more we learn how to practice that, the fewer cases we’ll get.”

Infection-control measures will be in place until a COVID-19 vaccine is widely distributed, Unthank said.

“I would be very surprised if we have a vaccine before the beginning of next year,” Unthank said.

“Even then, once we have a vaccine, we need to get enough folks vaccinated, so I would really anticipate we’re going to be dealing with this until well into next year.”

Locke said there were at “least a half dozen” promising vaccine candidates and an “extraordinary amount of resources” being devoted to vaccines.

“I think it’s not unreasonable by the end of the year, or early in the next year, that there will actually be a licensed vaccine,” Locke said.

“But getting it out there and vaccinating enough of the population to make a difference is really going to take time.”

A vaccine with a 60-to-70-percent effectiveness would be considered a success, Locke said.

“You have to vaccinate a lot people with that level of effectiveness to really achieve the herd immunity that’s necessary,” Locke said.

Locke predicted that the COVID-19 pandemic would last through the 2020-21 school year.

“Certainly through the rest of this year, and probably the first half of the next year, we will be in some kind of pandemic-response mode,” Locke said.

“And then, if everything goes right and we have very high levels of vaccinations and an effective vaccine, I could see this sort of letting up towards the end of the school year, so spring, summer of 2021.”

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

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