A recent uptick in confirmed COVID-19 cases in Clallam and Jefferson counties appears to have slowed down at the moment, but health officials are concerned about the potential for a spike after Labor Day weekend gatherings.
“We are seeing new cases starting to slow, which is promising,” said Dr. Allison Unthank, Clallam County health officer, during her Friday COVID-19 briefing.
Jefferson County has not reported a new case since Tuesday. Clallam County, which saw a dramatic growth in new cases through much of August, reported one new case on Friday and three more on Saturday.
As of Saturday, Clallam County had 210 total cases since March with 27 active cases. Jefferson County has 69 total cases with 15 active cases.
The infection rate for Clallam County was 83 per 100,000 over a two-week period Friday, down from the peak number of 97.4 a week ago, but still in the “high-risk” category.
Unthank said she is concerned about the upcoming Labor Day weekend — Labor Day is Sept. 7 — because there was a spike in cases in Clallam County after the Fourth of July holiday, with many infections originating at parties and other gatherings.
“We do worry about the holiday coming up,” she said. “If our past repeats itself, we can have a dramatic rise in cases again.
“We need to learn from what happened in our prior holidays. We can’t treat this like the Fourth of July.
She cautioned that gatherings should be kept small and people should try to just gather with their immediate family.
Jefferson County’s infection rate also spiked dramatically from about 15 per 100,000 to 37.6 per 100,000 last week, which put Jefferson in the “moderate risk” category for a couple of weeks.
However, Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer, said that the lack of new cases for five days now — eight new cases in the past two weeks — should drop that rate to about 25 per 100,000 by Monday. It will be officially recalculated Monday, he said. That figure is right on the edge of the “low risk” category (which is 25 per 100,000).
Locke said dropping down to a “low risk” infection rate doesn’t really trigger any changes in policy, “but it’s a little more reassuring to the schools” trying to offer in-person instruction.
Unthank said while the county is still seeing new cases, there aren’t as many as a couple of week ago, when the infection rate in the county skyrocketed from less than 50 per 100,000 to nearly 100 per 100,000.
Unthank said 300 people in Clallam County remain in quarantine because they had come in contact with possible positive cases. There were 400 people in quarantine last week.
“We are hopeful that with continued participation of all of our population with following the guidelines, we can move these numbers down further,” she said.
The two biggest areas for new cases in Clallam County have been the West End and Port Angeles.
Unthank said the West End is starting to see a rise in cases again. According to Friday’s numbers, the West End of the county has had 35 new cases in the past two weeks, while Port Angeles has had 29 new cases during that same time frame.
Unthank said there have been very few cases in Sequim, adding that residents have been overall careful about following safety guidelines.
As of Friday, Port Angeles and the West End had each had 79 cases since March, while Sequim had had 34.
Also, young people are driving the new cases, with nearly 40 new cases in the past two weeks involving people under the age of 30. Unthank has blamed gatherings in some bars and parties for many of the new infections.
“The majority are in their 20s. That’s good and bad. It’s good because there’s lower mortality in this age group, but bad because many people feel quite well when they have COVID-19 and can transfer it to people before they realize they have it,” Unthank said.
Unthank also reiterated that the health department does not check citizenship status when giving tests and people don’t have to worry about their status if they want to get a test.
“We don’t care about your citizenship status. We just want to help keep you safe,” she said. She said the health department doesn’t interact with the Border Patrol or Immigration. “You’re information is kept private,” she said.
Sports Editor Pierre LaBossiere can be reached at [email protected].