The state secretary of health has returned the Safe Start applications to Jefferson and six other counties as the phased reopening process remains on pause.
Jefferson County had applied to enter Phase 3 at the end of June. However, due to the rise in the number of COVID-19 cases statewide, Gov. Jay Inslee has kept any applications from being approved until at least July 28.
While the state continues to see a high number of confirmed COVID-19 cases per day, Jefferson and Clallam counties have had a slight reprieve, with no new cases reported Monday.
The total number of cases in Jefferson County has held at 50 for the past five days, said Dr. Tom Locke, the county health officer. Of those, 33 patients have recovered, according to Jefferson County Public Health.
Clallam County held at 68 confirmed cases and has not reported a new case in four days, said Dr. Allison Unthank, the county health officer. Of those, 41 cases have recovered, according to Clallam County Public Health.
No deaths have been recorded or attributed to COVID-19 among North Olympic Peninsula residents, county health records state.
Locke said the return of Jefferson County’s application to enter Phase 3 is not a denial. Instead, the data that was submitted with the application is now almost a month old, and Phase 3 is being reevaluated at the state level — including the decrease from gatherings from 50 down to 10 — due to the surge in cases statewide, he said.
“I’m fine with the state’s decision,” Locke said. “We share their concerns for the direction the pandemic is going in the state is concerning. We need to do a better job of controlling this virus before looking at Phase 3 and opening schools.”
The other counties whose applications were returned are Clark, Cowlitz, Kitsap, Klickitat, San Juan and Walla Walla, according to a press release from the state Department of Health.
Unthank was preparing Monday for the Clallam County Board of Health meeting, which will be at 1:30 p.m. today. It can be viewed at tinyurl.com/PDN-ClallamBoH.
Unthank said she plans to discuss the state of the pandemic, such as what to expect and what factors may influence the county eventually moving into Phase 3.
Unthank and Locke said they are concerned about the high levels of COVID-19 activity seen across the state in the recent weeks, because even though the number of cases locally have been relatively low in both counties, the high number of cases in other areas can have an effect depending on where people travel.
Both health officers continue to urge people to avoid large gatherings and wear face masks while congregating with people outside your household.
“As much as we want to focus on Clallam County, we’re not an island,” Unthank said. “Now is not the time for gatherings.
“Even though we haven’t seen dramatic rises in cases here to the extent seen in other places, the virus is very much present in our community and could get rapidly out of control if we continue to have these large gatherings.”
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 360-385-2335, ext. 5.