Virus numbers may hit plateau

New infections slow after surge

Clallam County reported two additional cases of COVID-19, and Jefferson County has reported one new case.

The newest infections bring Clallam County’s total number of cases to 104 since March, while Jefferson County rose to 54 as of Monday, health officials said.

Seventy-eight people have recovered from COVID-19 in Clallam County and 41 people have recovered in Jefferson County, health departments reported.

The newest cases in Clallam County are believed to be contracted from family and friends from both in-county and out-of-county sources, said Dr. Allison Unthank, the county health officer.

The new Jefferson County case is a household member of one of the three other cases that had been reported in the county since Wednesday, said Dr. Tom Locke, the county health officer.

The three Jefferson County cases reported between Wednesday and the weekend are believed to have contracted the virus from out-of-state travel or from hosting an out-of-state visitor, Locke said.

Both health officers continue to discourage gatherings among friends and family outside of a person’s household and to limit out-of-county travel and visitors, to reduce possible exposure to COVID-19.

When people do gather, health officers urge people to wear masks and keep 6 feet of social distance.

“We tend to trust our family and friends,” Locke said. “It’s not a matter of trust, it’s a matter of uncertainty.”

Many people may be feeling “quarantine fatigue” from maintaining the safety regulations that have been put into place, Locke said, but he urged people to make sure they’re taking care of themselves and remembering the pandemic is not over.

“This is a marathon, and it’s like a war,” Locke said. “We’re going to be in this state until we have a vaccine … at least another four to six months.”

Locke said he has observed people using face shields as replacements for face masks, thinking they’re are an appropriate substitute, but “that could not be further from the truth,” he said.

Face shields protect the wearer’s eyes, but they do not act as a form of source control, which is what face masks are doing by catching the droplets people expel when they breathe and talk, Locke said.

In Clallam County and in preliminary numbers across the state, case rates seem to be on a plateau or declining from the early July surge, Unthank said.

Clallam is now at about 30 cases per 100,000 people for the past two weeks, while Jefferson County is at about 9.15 cases during the same time frame. A benchmark for keeping the virus contained is 25 cases per 100,000, both health officers said.

“That’s good news,” Unthank said. “We’re not continuing to skyrocket upwards. The next step is to actually turn those cases back downwards.

“Which I think we’re very capable of doing, with contact tracing, with our population spacing, wearing masks and limiting those gatherings. If we do that, we can turn those numbers back down.”

The East Beach Road wildfire at Lake Crescent in Clallam County has caused the air quality in the surrounding area to worsen, with readings at times of over 30 on the air quality index compared with the normal zero to 10, Unthank said. However, she added an index in the 30s is still considered good air quality.

“Any smoke inhalation does increase your susceptibility to the virus, and it could exacerbate those underlying conditions that can also be flared up by having the virus,” Unthank said. “Poor air quality can make things like viral respiratory infections worse.”

While smoke from the fire has not been a major problem, Unthank recommends people be aware and, if conditions get worse, to keep windows closed when possible and to continue to wear masks and social distance.

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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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