Holiday gatherings led to nine new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Clallam County over two days, according to county officials, a surge that brought the North Olympic Peninsula to hit 100 cases since March.
Clallam County Undersheriff Ron Cameron reported five new cases Friday and Clallam County Health Officer Dr. Allison Unthank reported an additional four cases Saturday, to give Clallam County a total of 59.
Jefferson County officially remained at 41 cases Saturday, a number the county has maintained for several days now.
Cameron, who is the emergency management coordinator, said the five new cases Friday are not related to one another, although a couple of them are related to previously reported cases of COVID-19.
“We believe a lot of them, of these five and ones we have been seeing recently, are the results from the Fourth of July gatherings, ” Cameron said Friday.
Unthank said the four cases reported Saturday were from Fourth of July parties. These four cases — three teenagers and a woman in her 50s — are related to a single Fourth of July gathering.
Cameron noted that Friday’s spike was the largest single-day total of COVID-19 cases in Clallam County since the start of the spread in the state of Washington, making the outlook pretty grim for the possibility of the county moving into Phase 3.
“At this point, we aren’t trying to get our cases to zero. We’re trying to get them as low as possible,” Unthank said.
Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke said a new positive was reported in Jefferson County on Saturday, but that it was an out-of-state resident who tested positive locally and that case likely will not count as a Jefferson County case.
In a more positive vein, Unthank confirmed that the COVID-19 outbreak at Serenity House was contained to just two cases and the investigation at that location is now closed.
“It really speaks to the power of infection prevention,” Unthank said. “The fact that Serenity House worked early on its infection prevention, on the spacing of their guests really went a long way.”
Another outbreak at Olympic Medical Center was contained at two cases, both employees. No patients tested positive after hundreds of tests were done.
Unthank noted that contact tracing has shown that much of the increase in COVID-19 cases stems from people relaxing infection control measures with family and friends who have traveled from out of the county or out of the state.
“We are seeing a decent amount of infections from people who are having guests visit them from out of the county,” Unthank said.
“I think it is important to stress that this is not tourists. This is people’s friends and family,” she said.
“I think what we are seeing is a lot of people are practicing good infection prevention when they are around strangers, but not when they are around their own friends.”
“People think that somehow friends are safe. Anyone can have it,” he said.
Unthank urged people to reduce visits to family and friends, saying if they do get together to do it safely with infection prevention practices in mind. She also cautioned against large gatherings, which are currently not allowed during Phase 2.
No fatalities have been reported on the Peninsula.
Locke said that reopening the state was discussed during a statewide conference call of health officers Friday.
“It’s pretty clear that things are not going to move forward,” he said, because of an increase of cases in Washington.
In particular, the Yakima and Tri-Cities areas are seeing huge increases in cases during the past month.
“We’re wondering can we even open schools this fall. The outbreak activity needs to be lower than this,” Locke said.
Locke said the recent outbreaks in Washington mean that bars likely will not be reopened even in Phase 3 and that live music events will not be allowed for some time.
Reporter Pierre La Bossiere can be reached at [email protected],com.
Reporter Ken Park can be reached at [email protected]