PORT ANGELES — Sixteen new COVID-19 cases have been reported on the North Olympic Peninsula since Thursday night as local health officials wait to see if there will be a strong surge in new cases from holidays gatherings and travel.
Clallam County reported three new positives Friday and five more Saturday for eight over the past two days. That gives Clallam County 757 cases since March of last year, with 55 active cases and an infection rate of 122 per 100,000 over the past two weeks, according to Clallam County Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry Unthank.
Two Clallam County patients are hospitalized. No other information about the new cases was available Saturday.
Jefferson County had five cases reported late Thursday, two Friday and one more Saturday for eight new positives. That gives Jefferson County 228 positives since March and 19 active cases in quarantine. Jefferson’s last reported infection rate was 62.70 per 100,000 over two weeks, said Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer, who added that the totals will be updated Monday.
Locke said he isn’t sure if the new Jefferson County cases were from Christmas travel exposures, but said they might be as it would only take four or five days for Christmas exposures to start resulting in positive tests.
He expects to get more information Monday.
“We think there’s going to be a Christmas surge. It’s the riskiest holiday when people are most likely to let their guard down,” Locke said.
Locker was not aware of people holding New Year’s parties in Jefferson County, but said that if they did, it would be “especially reckless.” If large parties were held, he expects the area would likely see a surge in cases within a few days.
“People are following a set of behaviors that they think are safe because they’ve worked so far. They’re not working anymore,” Locke said. “The threat is real.”
Locke said “the next three months are really precarious” for turning the tide on COVID-19 as infection rates are running high throughout the country and there’s mounting evidence that a new, more contagious strain of COVID-19 from Great Britain is beginning to show up in the United States.
Locke said Jefferson County is aggressively using its vaccines to vaccinate health care workers and first responders and long-term care facilities.
Both counties have been vaccinating these “1A” groups since vaccines began arriving in December and will begin looking at 1B and 1C groups later this week after those groups are listed by the state.
These groups are expected to include frontline essential workers and people over the age of 75.
“We’re really accelerated the pace of our vaccinations. We’re using vaccines as fast as we get them,” Locke said.
Sports Editor Pierre LaBossiere can be reached at [email protected]