Jefferson County health officials were planning for an early Phase 2 reopening of business while health officials across the North Olympic Peninsula encouraged those with coronavirus symptoms to get tested.
No new cases of COVID-19 were reported on the Peninsula as more than 100 state parks, trails and boat ramps reopened for day use Tuesday.
Non-essential travel was still restricted under Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-phase plan to reboot the economy during the pandemic.
“We feel very strongly now is not the time to encourage tourism,” said Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer.
“On sunny weekends, downtown Port Townsend can get crowded with people who have come to visit despite the governor’s ban on doing that.”
Jefferson County officials were reviewing a list of potential activities to apply for under an early roll-out of Phase 2 of Inslee’s “Safe Start” plan, which is available at www.governor.wa.gov.
Jefferson was one of 10 rural counties that qualified under criteria announced Friday to move into the second phase more quickly than other counties.
Clallam County did not qualify for an early entry into Phase 2 because it has had confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the past three weeks.
District 24 legislators have sent a letter to Inslee requesting that Clallam County be added to the list.
Phase 1 began Tuesday and the next phase would begin in about three weeks under the governor’s plan for most counties, including Clallam.
Clallam County had 18 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Tuesday. Jefferson County had 28 cases but no new cases since April 9.
No coronavirus deaths had been reported on the North Olympic Peninsula as of Tuesday.
Jefferson County health officials were gathering input from community leaders in preparation for a 5 p.m. Thursday meeting of the Jefferson County commissioners, Board of Health and Port Townsend City Council, Locke said.
“This is the meeting to kind of get everyone’s perspective and allow everyone to have input,” Locke said.
“We’re also figuring out how to involve these different stakeholders within the community who want to weigh in on the decision.”
Locke said the goal for the coronavirus response is to “do it right.”
“We really want to come to a community consensus on what’s best at this stage and kind of follow though on that,” Locke said.
“So we’re trying to get a lot of input and let everyone’s voice be heard. That’s what we’re working on today.”
Clallam County Health Officer Dr. Allison Unthank said her main focus Tuesday was to encourage anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 and other illnesses to get tested.
“So that’s cough, fever, shortness of breath, and then there’s the new ones — chills, muscle aches, headaches, sore throat and new loss of taste or smell,” Unthank said.
“If you have any of those, if you’re at all concerned you might have COVID-19, we’re recommending folks call their primary doctor and get tested.”
For those without a primary care physician, testing is available at the Olympic Medical Center walk-in clinic and at Forks Community Hospital. Call in advance for testing.
“Right now we’re still getting pretty rapid turnaround in the labs, so about 12 to 24 hours at this point,” Unthank said.
“At this point, there shouldn’t be any limits on testing.”
New funding for uninsured patients was made available through the Health Resources and Services Administration, Unthank said.
“If you can get insurance, get it,” Unthank said in a Tuesday interview.
“But if you can’t, the testing and treatment for COVID-19 should be covered for you. … We shouldn’t let cost be a barrier for people getting tested.”
Under the governor’s plan, Phase 2 allows for the reopening of manufacturing, construction, domestic services, retail, real estate, professional services, hair and nail salons, pet grooming and restaurants and bars that operate at less than 50 percent capacity.
“It’s not all-or-nothing,” Locke said Tuesday.
“You don’t have to do everything on the list or nothing on the list. It’s more like a menu where you get to choose which things you think you’re ready for.”
Locke encouraged Jefferson County residents to read Inslee’s four-phase plan.
“We’re going to have to start making decisions about how we do things on a community-by-community basis, and the better informed people are about those decisions, I think the better the decisions will be,” Locke said.
As of Tuesday, Clallam County had tested 1,392 patients for COVID-19. Of those, 18 were positive, 1,324 were negative and 50 tests were pending.
Jefferson County had tested 897 samples as of Tuesday. Of those, 28 were positive, 851 were negative and 18 were pending.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.