The North Olympic Peninsula joined the rest of the state by entering Phase 3 of the Roadmap to Recovery on Monday, allowing restaurants and retail establishments to expand to 50 percent capacity indoors, crowds to attend sporting events and other openings.
While the Peninsula is at relatively low levels of COVID-19, local health officers are concerned the Phase 3 opening statewide will cause another rise in cases.
Under Phase 3, all indoor spaces — including dining at restaurants, fitness centers and retail — can increase capacity from 25 percent to 50 percent. Larger events such as concerts and graduation ceremonies will also be OK since up to 400 people will be allowed to gather for indoor and outdoor activities as long as physical distancing and masking are enforced.
In order to stay in Phase 3, counties just need to meet two metrics, which will be evaluated every three weeks starting April 12, and the metrics will be different for counties that have fewer than 50,000 people.
Counties like Clallam must have fewer than 200 new cases per 100,000 people during a two-week period and have fewer than five new COVID hospitalizations per 100,000 people during a one-week period.
Smaller counties such as Jefferson have to have fewer than 30 cases during a two-week period and fewer than three new COVID hospitalizations during a one-week period.
Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke believes the metrics are too high to effectively slow transmission. He told county commissioners on Monday that Jefferson would need three hospitalizations in a week and a case rate of 330 per 100,000, which the county has not come close to yet.
“We are concerned by how high those metrics are,” he said. “We’re watching it very carefully.”
If statewide intensive care unit capacity tops 90 percent, all counties would move back to the most restrictive first phase, which includes a prohibition on indoor restaurant dining, according to the state Department of Health guidelines.
Clallam County Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry is concerned that the Phase 3 openings, paired with the case numbers already starting to climb statewide and with spring break, will cause a significant surge in cases.
“It’s something I’m a little bit cautious about,” she said. “It’s something that, if we’re going to succeed at this, it’s going to depend on how cautious people take Phase 3.
“A full reopening statewide could certainly lead to a significant surge in cases, especially around spring break.”
People should be cautious with Phase 3 openings, expand their social circles slowly, continue to social distance and wear face masks, limit travel to places with higher case rates, don’t gather if sick and sign up for vaccinations when eligible, Berry said.
Currently, the state is vaccinating those in the 1B2 category, which includes critical workers in congregate settings such as grocery stores, food banks, agriculture, courts, jails and corrections, as well as first responders not vaccinated under 1A, and people older than 16 who are pregnant or who have disabilities that put them at high risk for COVID-19 complications.
Those who were eligible under previous tiers remain eligible for shots.
The Jamestown S’Klallam’s Sequim clinic, which includes 1B2 and those 50 and older, has appointments available at http://vaccine.clallam.net/register. Tribes are able to provide vaccinations to those 50 and older outside of state guidelines, something counties can’t do.
The Chimacum High School clinic on Saturday has appointments available for Jefferson County residents who are eligible. Appointments can be made online at bit.ly/jeffcovax or by calling 360-344-9791.
The Port Angeles High School clinic this Saturday and Sunday has appointments available at http://vaccine.clallam.net/register or by phone at 360-417-2430.
Appointments for Jefferson Healthcare’s clinic can be made at https://jeffersonhealthcare.org/covid-19-vaccine, and people are asked to fill out the Phase Finder tool, but it’s not required to bring the printed sheet, said Amy Yaley, hospital spokesperson.
Those using the Chimacum clinic are asked to fill out the state’s Phase Finder tool, print the eligibility sheet and bring it with them to their vaccination appointment. Clallam County doesn’t require that.
Jefferson County added one new case Monday, while Clallam added none.
Clallam County has confirmed 41 cases of COVID-19 so far this month, about 3.93 percent of the 1,042 cases confirmed during the past year, according to county data.
Jefferson County has confirmed eight cases this month, about 2.33 percent of the 344 cases confirmed in the past year, according to county Public Health data.
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]