Virus surge reaches 115 on Peninsula

Six more cases confirmed

Jefferson County had five new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, and Clallam County added one, bringing the North Olympic Peninsula’s total to 115 since March and 11 in just two days.

Four teens in one Jefferson County household contracted COVID-19 from their parents, who were previously confirmed to have the virus, county Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke said.

“The entire family — husband, wife and four children — are all infected,” Locke said in a Wednesday interview.

“That’s caused a big jump, but it’s a cluster. It’s kind of a thing we like to see in the sense that everyone was in quarantine when they turned positive.”

A fifth Jefferson County case, which is unrelated to the cluster, brought the county’s total number of cases to 49.

19 in a week

Clallam County has had 19 new COVID-19 cases in the past week.

“People want to believe this is over,” Locke said.

“They’re being told by elected officials at a national level that it’s over, and it’s as wrong as it could be.”

Clallam County’s latest case — and its 66th overall — involved a teen who contracted the highly contagious virus at a Fourth of July gathering, Health Officer Dr. Allison Unthank said.

Several recent cases have involved young people who attended July 4 parties, Unthank said.

None of the recent cases in Clallam County have required hospitalizations, Unthank said.

“We’ve definitely seen pre-symptomatic transmission, or minimally-symptomatic transmission,” Unthank said Wednesday.

“Some of these most recent cases that we got tested got tested before they developed symptoms.”

Two hospitalized

Two people in the Jefferson County cluster were hospitalized, Locke said.

“The remaining family members, I can say, they’re all teenagers, and that very much is a trend,” Locke said.

“We are seeing younger and younger people are getting infected. Although, in this case, these were not teenagers who were out partying.”

Household transmission is “not at all uncommon” with COVID-19 because of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission, Locke said.

Clallam and Jefferson counties are both in Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-phase “Safe Start” reopening plan for COVID-19. Jefferson County has applied to enter Phase 3.

Pause extended

Inslee announced Tuesday an extension of a current pause on phased re-openings through July 28.

Counties must have fewer than 25 cases per 100,000 population to qualify for the next phase.

Given the spate of new cases, Clallam and Jefferson counties were not eligible to enter Phase 3 as of Wednesday.

“We won’t recommend it, nor would it be an option,” Unthank said.

“We’re trying to really hold the line on that. We need low case numbers before it’s safe to move forward.”

Health officials continue to push for masking compliance and at least 6 feet of physical distance to slow the spread of the virus.

“These sacrifices now of some of these things that aren’t as essential — so sacrificing parties, for example — is what makes it possible to open more businesses and open the schools more fully in the fall,” Unthank said.

Locke said he planned to address school reopenings as part of his COVID-19 briefing to the Jefferson County Board of Health today.

“We will have some discussion about if and when we go to Phase 3 in Jefferson County, will we want to do all of the Phase 3 activities?” Locke said.

“We have the option at a local level of doing less than what the state allows.”

The Clallam County Board of Health will discuss COVID-19 at its next meeting on Tuesday. Topics will include phased reopenings, a public health messaging campaign and an update on the Clallam County Social Distancing Center.

Unthank said the teens who contracted COVID-19 showed “very minimal symptoms, if any at all.”

“I think one of the important points we want folks to know is if you get exposed to COVID-19, it will be very likely from someone that you can’t tell if they have COVID-19,” Unthank said.

“Either they’re asymptomatic, or their symptoms are so mild that you won’t be able to tell [by] looking at them.”

Locke said he agreed with Inslee’s decision to extend the pause on phased reopenings.

“We have to get this under better control statewide,” Locke said.

“If things are getting out of control elsewhere, it’s just a matter of time before that affects Jefferson County.

“Really, we need a national response to this, but we don’t have that,” Locke added.

“We have a state response, and we really need to treat it as such. We need to all stay on the same page statewide.”

________

Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

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