Clallam and Jefferson counties have broken their long streak of remaining without new COVID-19 cases, with five reported in Clallam County and one in Jefferson.
Despite the new cases reported Friday, the infection rate in both counties remains low.
That means, said Clallam County Health Officer Dr. Allison Unthank, that some in-person school instruction may begin in early October. Jefferson County now has mostly hybrid scheduling in the schools.
Officials also said the heavy smoke that has rolled into the Olympic Peninsula area can make people more susceptible to COVID-19.
There were no new cases reported in either county Saturday.
The five new cases in Clallam are “primarily on the West End,” Unthank said in her Friday COVID-19 weekly update, with four out of the five cases locally transmitted.
This gives Clallam County 226 cases total since the pandemic began in March, with only 13 active cases now. These were the first positives in Clallam County in seven days.
Clallam’s infection rate remains at 21 per 100,000 over the past two weeks, which is in the ‘low risk” category. That is down considerably from a high point in August when the county’s infection rate hit 97 per 100,000.
Jefferson County had its first positive test Friday since Aug. 31, said Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke. The county had gone 11 days without a positive test result.
Jefferson County has had 71 positives since March, with 11 active cases and an infection rate of just 9.4 percent over the past two weeks.
Locke said that the new positive should not raise Jefferson’s infection rate above 10 per 100,000.
“Under 10 we’re very glad. That’s an especially low prevalence for when we’re opening up schools,” Locke said.
Locke and Unthank feared that there could be an uptick in cases after the Labor Day weekend because they anticipated large gatherings that weekend. Unthank said the five new cases were not related to the Labor Day weekend. Locke said any rise in cases stemming from Labor Day would likely show up later this week.
Locke said Jefferson County’s newest COVID-19 patient was completely asymptomatic. That person’s positive test showed up as part of a routine screening for a medical procedure.
“They’re a very fortunate individual,” Locke said.
He said the county is still investigating if the case was caught locally or out of county.
Unthank in her Friday update said the county has experienced 11 consecutive days with an infection rate below 75 per 100,000.
“After four weeks under that threshold, we can consider some in-person instruction in the schools,” she said.
If the infection rate holds, Clallam County elementary schools may be able to offer some in-person instruction by early October, Unthank said.
“We definitely will not go back to full in-person instruction right away,” she said.
Unthank also said the heavy smoke from the Oregon and Washington fires are complicating the response to COVID-19.
She said people over 65 should definitely stay indoors and parents should keep very young children indoors. People with underlying health problems also should remain inside.
“Now is a good time to come indoors,” she said.
Sports Editor Pierre LaBossiere can be reached at [email protected]