A breakdown of confirmed COVID-19 cases by age shows the majority of reported cases have been under the age of 40 in Jefferson County, and in Clallam County, the age group with the greatest number of cases has been 0-19.
The total number of 122 confirmed cases on the North Olympic Peninsula since March is too small to provide true statistical trends, health officials caution.
People over the age of 65 have been seen as being most at risk from the virus since March, but recently younger people are making up a growing percentage of cases in the U.S., the national media has reported.
A respite in new COVID-19 cases Wednesday gave Peninsula health officials time to focus on infection control and data analysis.
Jefferson County reached a one-week milestone Wednesday with no new COVID-19 cases reported since July 15. Jefferson County has had 50 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus.
“When we get a little breather, we use it to kind of work on our programs, especially prevention,” Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer, said Wednesday.
“We would much rather be preventing problems than dealing with our failures at prevention.”
Clallam County had four new cases reported late Tuesday but no cases Wednesday, county Health Officer Dr. Allison Unthank said.
Clallam County’s COVID-19 case total remained at 72.
“The biggest thing that is important to get across is that we’re seeing this really exponential growth around the state,” Unthank said Wednesday.
“We certainly have seen some exponential growth here as well, and really, it’s up to us to turn that around, and we have the ability to do it.”
Jefferson County has had more COVID-19 infections among people in their 60s — 13 — than any other single age group, with 18 under the age of 40.
Clallam County’s largest age group reported as infected is the 0-19 group, with 16 confirmed cases. The next highest — 15 — is in the 50s age group.
Health officials are encouraging the public to abide by state masking directives, to avoid large gatherings and to maintain at least 6 feet of physical distance.
“Even though it’s summertime and gorgeous weather and people are doing a lot of stuff outside, it’s more important than ever that we get serious about control,” Locke said.
Clallam County had six cases in the past week and 25 for the two-week period ending Wednesday.
The most recent cases involved a teen, a woman in her 20s, a woman in her 40s and a woman in her 50s, Unthank said.
None of the new cases required hospitalizations.
“They’re all at home,” Unthank said Wednesday.
“The teenage girl was exposed out-of-county, and the other three were exposed to known cases in the county.”
Most of Clallam County’s recent cases have involved a “bimodal peak” affecting teens and their parents in their 40s and 50s, Unthank said.
“They’re having family gatherings with other families with similar-aged children,” Unthank said.
“Our tendency is to want to blame the teenagers,” Unthank added. “We do certainly see some cases where kids are gathering and then bringing it home, but, by and large, it’s all gathering together.”
Locke said it was difficult to identify similar trends in Jefferson County because of its limited number of cases and the fact that young people with mild or no symptoms can spread COVID-19 without knowing they are infected.
A college student who contracted the virus during a recent outbreak in the University of Washington’s fraternity system brought COVID-19 back to Jefferson County, leading to more cases, Locke said.
“By and large, I think the populations that are at greatest risk for complications, namely those over 65 and those with chronic illnesses, they’re still being very cautious,” Locke said.
“They’re still following stay-home, stay-healthy kind of guidelines, with a few exceptions. Where we’ve got to do a lot better job is at convincing younger people and middle-aged people that it’s really important that they avoid infection, too.”
Locke said some young people who contract COVID-19 require hospitalizations while others have mild symptoms.
“People have to realize that this is a very capricious and unpredictable infection,” Locke said.
“Young people can get it and spread it to older people who have higher complication rates, so whereas it might not be that big an infection for a teenager, it’s something that could kill their grandparents.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at [email protected].