Third COVID-19 case seen in Jefferson County

No community transmission confirmed yet — but it is looming

A third confirmed case of COVID-19 has been reported in a Jefferson County man and several other people in both Jefferson and Clallam counties are in 14-day quarantine because of possible exposure to the unique coronavirus.

An additional possible case of COVID-19 linked to the new case is under investigation, said Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County Public Health Officer. This individual is in isolation and testing results are pending. Testing turnaround time is now around 48 hours.

No cases of the pandemic virus had been confirmed in Clallam County as of Sunday although testing of people with symptoms continued.

Both public health officers on the North Olympic Peninsula said that no community transmission has been confirmed on the Peninsula as yet but, said Locke, such transmission in Jefferson County “is likely in the near future.”

The third Jefferson County confirmed case is a man in his 40s who appeared to have been exposed in the Seattle area, the epicenter of the disease in Washington state, Locke said in a Sunday press release issued after the test result came in Saturday evening.

The man is experiencing mild, flu-like illness and is isolated at home until his infection resolves, Locke said.

“Multiple close contacts” in Jefferson County had been identified and placed in 14-day quarantine, Locke said.

Several people in Clallam County have been tested and are in quarantine until results arrive because of possible exposure to a King County man who traveled in the county while he was infectious shortly before he was diagnosed with the coronavirus.

Only those with symptoms are tested, said Dr. Allison Unthank, Clallam County Health Officer.

“They could easily have a cold but we want to make sure,” she said Sunday.

Those possible exposures were tested on Saturday; results are expected early this week, Unthank said.

As of Friday, Clallam County had sent out 34 swab tests for the virus, with 15 negative and 19 pending. Unthank did not know on Sunday how many had been sent out over the weekend, but said that at least 21 were sent to labs on Saturday.

In Jefferson County, 126 people had been tested as of Friday, with 71 negative and 52 pending.

The purpose of quarantine is to monitor exposed individuals to see if they develop symptoms of infection, Locke said. If they do, they are tested for COVID-19 and kept in isolation for the duration of their infection.

“This is how the spread of epidemic diseases like the novel coronavirus are slowed and populations at increased risk of complications are protected from exposure,” Locke said.

“Successful isolation and quarantine takes a community-wide effort,” he added, saying that family and friends must help those in quarantine by supplying food and other necessities.

“Contact with someone who is in quarantine and has no symptoms of illness does not expose a person to coronavirus,” Locke said.

“‘Contacts of contacts’ are not at risk,” he continued. “The purpose of quarantine is to put a person in isolation before they become ill and contagious. Most people in quarantine do not develop coronavirus infection.”

The third case reported in a Jefferson County resident is the first whose test specimen was collected in Jefferson County.

The two earlier cases were a man in his 60s exposed in Seattle who has since recovered and a man in his 70s who has been out of the county since early February and is being treated in Seattle.

Gov. Jay Inslee ordered Friday that all schools be closed as of Tuesday — Monday for Quillayute Valley School District in Forks — and that gatherings greater than 250 are prohibited statewide. Many events have been voluntarily cancelled.

Public health officials in the Seattle area reported two more COVID-19 deaths Sunday, bringing the total statewide to at least 42.

Both additional deaths were residents of the Life Care Center of Kirkland, the suburban nursing home that has been the center of the outbreak in the hard-hit region.

They were a woman in her 60s who died Saturday and a woman in her 70s who died Thursday.

That makes 29 coronavirus-related fatalities linked to the nursing home.

Coronavirus is spread by droplet transmission — a person with the infection coughs out droplets that contain virus particles. These particles can be inhaled or come in contact with the eyes, nose or mouth of someone who is in close proximity to them, said to be less than 6 feet.

More often, infectious particles land on environmental surfaces and/or infected people cough into their hands and then touch a surface, where the virus can remain viable for hours to days.

“Staying away from people who are sick and actively coughing and washing or sanitizing your hands before touching your face or eating food with your hands is a very effective way of avoiding coronavirus infection (and dozens of other respiratory viruses, including influenza),” Locke said.

People who are coughing are told to cough into their elbow sleeves or disposable tissues.

“Influenza is still actively circulating in our community,” Locke said. “All of the Jefferson County residents who have been tested and found to have negative tests for COVID-19 are infected with other respiratory viruses.”

Locke will update Jefferson County commissioners at 9:45 a.m. Monday. The presentation will be live-streamed on Jefferson County’s webpage. To watch, go to www.co.jefferson.wa.us and click on “Videos of Meetings” on the lower left side of the screen., then choose “streaming live” or recorded.”

Clallam County will livestream COVID-19 daily briefings, which are at 10 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., at http://www.clallam.net/Coronavirus/.

Information on coronavirus is available at www.jeffersoncountypublichealth.org, www.clallam.net and www.doh.wa.gov.

To schedule an appointment, or for other information, Jefferson County residents can call the Jefferson Healthcare nurse consult line between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays at 360-344-3094.

A Clallam County COVID-19 hotline is 360-417-2430.

For the latest updates on COVID-19 on the Peninsula, visit www.peninsuladailynews.com/tag/coronavirus.

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