This week critical for virus containment

State should get a clearer picture, health officers say

Dr. Tom Locke

Dr. Tom Locke

PORT ANGELES — The public can watch an update on the COVID-19 outbreak online at 9:45 a.m. today for a presentation to the Board of Jefferson County Commissioners as the state enters a critical week for its response to the virus.

The meeting, to be held remotely through Zoom, can be seen at www.co.jefferson.wa.us. Users can find the meeting by clicking “Videos of Meetings” in the Quick Links section, then “Streaming Live.”

Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke said the public may have an opportunity to ask questions about the virus through an instant messaging system.

Locke said this will be a critical time for the state because it’s two weeks after social distancing measures went into place and a week after more stringent “remain in shelter” restrictions went into place.

The incubation period for the COVID-19 virus is about five to six days before symptoms show up, he said.

“This weekend, we’re actually kind of regrouping,” Locke said. “This is an extremely important week.”

Locke said he was concerned there will be an uptick in cases, but the state should get a clearer idea this week if the strict measures are starting to make an impact.

Officials are cautiously optimistic they are having an effect in urban areas such as Seattle and Tacoma, but it’s a less clear picture in rural counties.

“This is when mitigation measures that started two weeks ago should start having an effect,” Locke said.

Clallam County Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry Unthank agreed there is reason for optimism and that the following week or two will be crucial.

“There is data that social distancing is starting to work,” she said, pointing primarily to King County.

“We’re just now starting to see the increase in cases,” she said. “We have a shot to lower that curve. There is a way through this if we do it right.”

Unthank said it’s critical that not only the social distancing measures remain, but that the county is able to get more tests and personal protection equipment for health care workers.

Locke pointed out that the cases on the North Olympic Peninsula so far — now up to 21 in Clallam and Jefferson counties combined — are those that were transmitted before social distancing measures went into effect.

Locke said one encouraging sign is that the people who have been tested and are awaiting results have been very good about self-quarantining to prevent the spread of the disease.

There were no new cases Sunday in Clallam County, but one more positive test was being investigated in Jefferson County.

That makes 14 cases being handled by Jefferson County Public Health and seven by the Clallam County Health Department, although Locke said it turns out that one of the cases Jefferson County is handling is a Clallam County resident.

There were a total of 4,310 cases in Washington state and 189 deaths from the COVID-19 virus as of Saturday night.

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