Shelter resident, Serenity House employee test positive

Outbreak apparently one of two mentioned by county health officer

PORT ANGELES — Two people at Serenity House of Clallam County tested positive for COVID-19 this week in an outbreak that was still being assessed late Wednesday afternoon.

Executive Director Sharon Maggard disclosed the positive tests on Wednesday after Clallam County Health Officer Dr. Allison Unthank declined to identify two outbreaks in the county.

Olympic Medical Center disclosed an outbreak at the hospital this weekend.

Neither the Serenity House employee nor the client was hospitalized for the highly contagious disease, Maggard said.

The employee’s positive test Friday led to 114 employees and residents of Serenity House and the nearby county social-distancing homeless shelter being tested on Monday, Maggard said.

The client’s test results were part of the first batch of 25 results that Maggard received Wednesday morning, while the remaining 89 results are expected by early today, she said.

The employee obtained a test on his own after showing symptoms and is isolating at home for 14 days.

The other person is a shelter resident who is isolating at the nearby county social distancing shelter for people who are homeless an cannot maintain 6 feet of separation between themselves and others.

Maggard received the client’s test result after the person left the shelter located on West 18th Street west of downtown Port Angeles.

The person departed Serenity House by 10 a.m. Wednesday and returned by 1:30 p.m. after an employee went looking for the person, said Maggard, who would not divulge the person’s gender.

The social-distancing shelter houses people who cannot maintain the separation that health officials say is vital to prevent the spread of the virus.

Unlike Serenity House, the social-distancing shelter has separate rooms where people can safely recuperate.

Maggard said Serenity House employees are wearing face masks and are urging clients to wear the coverings but are not requiring the practice.

Health officials say the wearing of face coverings is highly effective in preventing others from contracting the virus, which can be spread by carriers even if they do not have symptoms.

Cloth masks have been available at Serenity House since April, Maggard said.

“Everyone that we can possibly get to keep the masks on are wearing masks,” she said.

Handwashing stations also are situated at both shelter entrances, and the facility is wiped down at the beginning and middle of every shift.

Shelter residents have their temperatures checked at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“We have implemented policies the same way that other businesses that stay open have done,” Maggard said.

Unthank told Peninsula Daily News on Monday that an outbreak is defined as two or more cases confirmed in a specific site in a short period of time.

Unthank did not return calls for comment Wednesday on the outbreak at Serenity House.

Maggard said she met with Unthank Sunday morning to devise a plan to test employees at both shelters and to move people who tested positive to the social-distancing shelter at the Port of Port Angeles’ 1010 Building. She also obtained 500 face masks.

At Serenity House, 69 people, including staff, were tested, while 45 were tested at the social-distancing shelter, which is managed by Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP).

Kathy Morgan, OlyCAP director of housing and community development, said the shelter had a man from Yakima tested for COVID-19 — separate from the recent procedures — because of the high incidence of the virus in that city.

The clients and employees at the 1010 Building were tested after the Serenity House employee was diagnosed “because a lot of our folks intermingle,” Morgan said.

She said the testing was conducted by Olympic Peninsula Community Clinic, formerly Volunteers in Medicine of the Olympics.

“Because of Dr. Unthank and OPCC, they have established medical procedures that are in place, and it’s worked, so lucky us,” Morgan said.

“I’m just keeping my fingers crossed.”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

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