Spiking case numbers worry health officers

Unidentified basketball team among those affected

A trend of rising COVID-19 cases over the past month includes a local basketball team, according to Dr. Allison Berry, Clallam County health officer.

Berry would not say how many cases are involved, the location of the team or provide any other facts.

When asked, she texted: “That’s as much information as we can give about that.”

The recent rise in cases in the county is similar to that seen in November and that has North Olympic Peninsula health officials concerned about a possible uptick in hospitalizations and perhaps even deaths in the future.

Clallam County confirmed eight new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, while Jefferson County held steady with no new cases.

Jefferson County has seen a small increase in cases over the last month but is still in the state’s low-risk category. Five cases in the county have been confirmed so far in April, about 1.42 percent of the 351 cases in the past year, according to county Public Health data.

Clallam County, which is in the moderate-risk category, has confirmed 31 cases of COVID-19 so far this month, about 2.83 percent of the 1,096 cases during the past year, according to county data.

All residents should continue to limit travel, social gatherings, social distance and wear face masks, health officials said.

Berry said the majority of new cases stem from travel, social gatherings and work places.

“It’s very worrisome,” Berry said. “When you look at the trajectory of our cases compared to the past, it really parallels almost exactly the rise in cases that we saw in November, before that really catastrophic wave we saw during the holiday season.”

It’s to both Jefferson and Clallam counties’ benefit that both have vaccinated so many in high-risk groups, Berry said. But many with chronic conditions have yet to be vaccinated while variants like one from the U.K. are more contagious and cause more severe illness in otherwise healthy young adults.

“We are still at risk of people in our community getting very sick and even dying from this infection,” she said. “It’s really up to us over the next couple of weeks to really double down and take things seriously.

“If we do that, we’ll have enough time to vaccinate the population before we get a significant surge, but if we don’t do that, we’ll have a full fourth wave, and we’re likely going to have to see things close down again and move backwards in a way I don’t think anyone wants.”

Berry and Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer, remind people that wearing face masks in businesses is still required by local and state mandates.

Business owners have the right to ask people to leave their business if they enter unmasked. In rare cases on the Peninsula, an individual has refused to leave a place of business and become belligerent after refusing to wear a mask.

In such cases, law enforcement officers can make arrests for investigation of trespassing, Locke said via text message on Tuesday.

“People who enter public spaces without masks are committing a criminal misdemeanor,” Locke said. “If they are asked to leave and refuse, it is criminal trespassing.

“People engaging in criminal acts are subject to arrest. Fortunately, most people are law abiding and respect the health rights of others. A small minority do not.”

Berry said: “Certainly store owners can ask people to leave if they refuse to wear a mask in their place of business, and we will certainly support them in that.”

Berry described the instances as more of a behavioral and trespassing issue than a mask-wearing issue.

Vaccine clinics

A new vaccination clinic in South Jefferson County by the Tri-Area Pharmacy and Jefferson County Department of Emergency Management is scheduled for this Saturday at Quilcene High School from 9 a.m. to noon using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. A total of 150 doses are available.

To schedule an appointment, go to bit.ly/quilcenevax or call 360-344-9791.

Both counties are vaccinating people in tiers 1B3 and 1B4, which include restaurant, construction, agriculture and other congregate workers, as well as people 60 and older. It also covers people with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, lung or heart disease as well as chemotherapy patients.

The conditions listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are published at https://tinyurl.com/PDN-ChronicConditions.

Locke and Berry said anyone with a chronic medical condition is probably eligible now.

Those previously eligible for vaccinations remain eligible for shots.

Appointments for Saturday’s clinic at Port Angeles High School — there will not be a clinic Sunday due to lack of appointment demand — can be made at http://vaccine.clallam.net/register. Appointments also can be made by phone at 360-417-2430.

The Jamestown S’Klallam Clinic is not providing first-dose vaccinations this week.

Appointments for Jefferson Healthcare’s clinic can be made at https://jeffersonhealthcare.org/covid-19-vaccine.

Thirty-three COVID-19 cases were active as of Monday in Clallam County. Jefferson County had six active cases.

Jefferson County is in the state’s low-risk category with a case rate of about 22 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior as of Saturday, while Clallam County is in the state’s moderate-risk category with a case rate of 57 per 100,000 for the two weeks prior to Tuesday.

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]

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