Two new COVID-19 cases confirmed in Clallam County

Officials tracing holiday parties

Two more cases of COVID-19 were discovered in Clallam County on Monday, bringing the total number on the North Olympic Peninsula to 105 since March.

The newest cases were attributed to Fourth of July gatherings, bringing the total case number in Clallam County to 61, said Dr. Allison Unthank, Clallam County health officer.

Out of the 61 confirmed cases in Clallam County, 41 patients have recovered, 6,315 tests have been performed, and 6,030 have returned negative, according the Clallam County Public Health.

Jefferson County’s number of confirmed cases held at 43 Monday, with 31 cases recovered. A total of 3,800 tests have been performed, with 3,703 negative, according to Jefferson County Public Health.

The two new cases in Clallam County are a female teenager and male in his 30s, and they are related to Fourth of July parties that Unthank said the Clallam County Public Health department has been investigating.

“There were two Fourth of July parties that kind of mixed during the course of their party, which made the parties even larger,” she said. “So far, we have at least three parties with cases associated with them that we know of.

“Unfortunately, we were worried that we would see large gatherings over the Fourth of July weekend, and that does seem to be coming true.”

Even after the holiday, Unthank has been noticing people having large gatherings at their houses. While mask wearing and social distancing at stores and in public has been going up, people tend to be lax when gathering with friends and family, she said.

“The place where we see people falling down on infection prevention is these personal gatherings,” Unthank said. “That’s where people seem to take off their mask and get quite close to each other.”

Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke agreed and said people appear to be getting tired of restrictions, but he restated that the COVID-19 pandemic is not close to being over during his briefing Monday morning with the Board of Jefferson County Commissioners.

“It’s really the indoor exposures that we’re concerned about,” Locke said. “People are really getting tired of the restrictions, and they want to get back to life as usual, but life isn’t as usual.

“We’re in the middle of a pandemic, and I don’t even think it’s accurate to say we’re in the middle. We’re in the second or third inning of this. We’re not even at the midpoint of this,” he continued.

“People need to brace themselves for seriously looking at ourselves and our behaviors and changing them so we can live safely in this pandemic environment.”

Statewide, Locke and other health officers estimated the current “reproductive rate” of COVID-19 is currently about 1.6, which means for every new case, that case on average is infecting 1.6 other people, Locke said.

COVID-19 cases are rising again in more than 30 states across the nation — including Washington — and Locke and Unthank said the national labs processing tests, such as LabCorp and Quest, are now back to a five- to seven-day turnaround, and that makes tracking cases harder, they said.

Tests from both Clallam and Jefferson counties are primarily sent to the labs at the University of Washington in Seattle to be processed, and it has about a 36-hour return window, they said.

Both health officers encourage people to wear masks and distance themselves from others when gathering with people outside of their household to limit the spread of COVID-19.

“We were lucky we weren’t one of the first places hit in the beginning of this, and with the prevention measures we were able to put into place, we were able to prevent the worst of the virus in the first round,” Unthank said. “But that doesn’t make us immune to the virus going forward.

“We could easily see a very significant wave that could rapidly overwhelm our small hospital system if people aren’t cautious.”

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

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