Clallam County has joined Jefferson County in requiring food service establishments to abide by COVID-19 restrictions or risk losing their operating permit.
Five new cases of the novel coronavirus were reported on the North Olympic Peninsula on Tuesday — four in Clallam County and one in Jefferson County.
Dr. Allison Unthank, Clallam County health officer, issued Monday an order for restaurants, taverns and other places that serve food to comply with state-mandated infection-control measures, including the requirement that customers and employees wear masks.
The Clallam County edict was based on an order that Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke issued Aug. 11.
“We were considering it two weeks ago when Jefferson did theirs,” Unthank said in a Tuesday interview.
“At that point, the vast majority of our businesses were following COVID-19 safety guidelines, and still the vast majority are. But we are starting to run into businesses that are not.”
Clallam County health officials blamed an 11-case outbreak this month on a Port Angeles bar that closed Aug. 13.
“This (order) just gives us another tool in enforcing COVID-19 safety guidelines,” Unthank said.
“We think it’s important to acknowledge the businesses that are doing an excellent job, but also to let the businesses that are not know that there is enforcement down the road for them.”
Locke, who shared the Jefferson County order with colleagues around the state, said the Clallam County order would provide consistency and “the same standards across the Olympic Peninsula.”
Locke met virtually Tuesday with Jefferson County school district superintendents, who are considering reopening plans for the 2020-21 academic year.
Clallam County school districts are planning to start online, while Jefferson County schools districts are expected to employ a mix of in-person and remote instruction.
“No definitive decisions were made today, but they’re all considering their options as whether Jefferson County moving from the low-risk to the medium-risk group should delay or alter their startup plans,” Locke said.
Jefferson County recently moved up in the state’s risk category because its two-week infection rate exceeded 25 cases per 100,000 population.
As of Saturday, Jefferson County’s two-week infection rate was 37.6 per 100,000 people, Locke said. The numbers will be updated weekly, he added.
The statewide infection rate was 101.9 per 100,000 and trending down, according to the state’s COVID-19 risk assessment dashboard.
“Certainly, if we were at 75 or above, I would recommend not having in-person education,” Locke said.
“That’s been kind of a clear threshold that we’ve used all over the state, and I agree with that.”
Clallam County’s two-week infection rate was 87 per 100,000 people, Unthank said Tuesday.
Clallam County has had 199 total cases of COVID-19 since March. Jefferson Country had 69 total cases as of Tuesday.
Jefferson County school district officials were expected to meet with parents, teachers and other stakeholders before finalizing reopening plans.
Locke said it’s not his role to make recommendations on school reopenings as long as the infection rate remains below 75 per 100,000 people.
“Basically, everybody’s got to feel safe, or as safe as possible,” Locke said.
“In a situation like this, where there’s high levels of uncertainty, I think that it’s important that people come to a kind of consensus.
“And if they can’t come to a consensus, or if there’s high levels of anxiety that can’t be resolved, that’s usually an indication that you should wait until things improve,” Locke added.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected].