Jefferson and Clallam counties on Thursday each added two more COVID-19 cases to their totals.
Jefferson County has had 57 confirmed cases while Clallam County has had 141 since March.
Active cases numbered 31 in Clallam County and two in Jefferson County as of Thursday, according to county public health reports.
The two newest cases in Jefferson County were still under investigation on Thursday. They are a couple in their 60s, said Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer.
He preliminarily believed them to have contracted the virus from out of the county.
One of the new cases in Clallam County is believed to have contracted the virus by attending a gathering outside of the county and the other is a household member of another known case, said Clallam County Health Officer Dr. Allison Unthank.
Unthank said she is starting to be hopeful that the recent spike in cases in Clallam is now getting under control. However she continues to urge residents to not gather in large groups.
She said that health officials have been able to implement policies to prevent outbreaks in public areas such as businesses and stores, but that limiting private gatherings falls to residents changing their behavior.
“The vast majority of our new cases are from personal gatherings,” Unthank said. “What we’re really hoping is to convince all the members of our community to take COVID-19 seriously and avoid gathering.
“Many folks want their individual gathering to be an exception … and we found that those little exceptions are enough to get people infected with COVID-19. So, really, we can’t have exceptions to the rules right now,” she continued.
“We do really need people to limit those gatherings, really limit those social circles, and if we do that, we can get this under control. But, that is a decision that all of our community members need to make together.”
Health officers said that mask wearing in both counties has been overall good. However, there is still room for people to improve, and there have been problems in the West End with people not following the masking order, Unthank said.
“We are still seeing some struggle with masking compliance on the West End,” she said, adding that this “does really correspond with the recent rise in cases that we have seen primarily localized in the West End.
“Many, many members of our community have been taking this seriously from the start, but there are some small subsets that are not, and we’re really doing what we can to figure out how to get them on board.”
Locke agreed with Unthank, saying that people may be letting down their guard and being more lax in following restrictions, which can cause infection numbers to rise.
“It’s important that we strive for very high compliance all around,” Locke said. “One of my concerns is people are letting down their guard.
“Anybody you know can be carrying this infection and not have any symptoms whatsoever. So, if we’re really going to do a good job of controlling this, we have to get a lot more serious about it,” Locke continued.
“We either do it by people really making a maximum effort in terms of preventing spread or the much more painful closing things down … rolling back into these stay-at-home initiatives and no one wants that.”
Locke further said he doesn’t understand people who have been pushing back against the restrictions, saying it isn’t logical and that both sides of the political isle are now in favor of mask wearing.
Both health officers have been assisting the various school districts as they prepare for the fall school year, and keeping case rates low will be key to keeping schools open, Locke and Unthank said.
“We are really in a tenuous position,” Unthank said. “We’re working really hard to make sure that there is some access to in-person learning for students in fall, and it’s really critically important that we avoid gatherings to make that happen.
“If we get very many more case than we have right now, we will find ourselves in a position where we’re unable to open schools.”
Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at 360-385-2335, ext. 5.