COVID-19 cases rise to 50 on Olympic Peninsula

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases on the North Olympic Peninsula rose to 50 after two more cases were confirmed in Clallam County.

Also on Thursday, Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County health officer, said he had heard from Gov. Jay Inslee’s office that a recent confirmed case does not block the county’s eligibility to apply for an early Phase 2 reopening.

The new cases are a Clallam couple in their 50s, who were exposed to another confirmed case that was tested in Clallam County, but is a King County resident, said Dr. Allison Unthank, Clallam County Health Officer Thursday.

The couple is at home in quarantine. County officials are notifying those who had contact with the man before the couple went into quarantine on Thursday, Unthank said.

Jefferson County held at 29 confirmed cases on Thursday, Locke said.

Of the 21 cases in Clallam County, 19 have recovered, and of the 29 cases in Jefferson County, 27 have recovered, Unthank and Locke said.

Clallam County officials also are training 40 volunteer contact tracers and working on a proposal for hiring three full-time staff positions: a public health nurse, a contact tracer/case manager and a customer service representative who would manage calls from the public and calls from businesses looking for guidance on how to open safely.

The Clallam County commissioners will discuss the possible added staff positions at 9 a.m. Monday.

“We think we may have to deal with this for a year or two and we really want to have trained staff for that work,” Unthank said.

Both counties have increased testing, providing it to patients who show symptoms of COVID-19. Each can test about 50 patients a day, Unthank and Locke said.

“That’s exactly what we want to be doing,” Locke said.

Patients must call for appointments to be tested, In Jefferson County, they call 360-344-3094. In Clallam County, they must call their primary care provider. If they do not have a provider, they can call 360-582-2930 in Sequim, 360-565-0550 in Port Angeles and 360-374-6998, ext. 2, on the West End between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

Jefferson County officials are examining Locke’s recommendation to apply for a Phase 2 variance, which would allow the county to open parts of the economy before most of the rest of the state. Clallam County was not listed as eligible.

There had been concern that the county had lost eligibility for the variance when a new case was found last Friday, as that contradicts the qualification of no new cases for three weeks. But Locke said the county remains eligible.

The case that was confirmed last Friday was a woman in her 90s who was hospitalized at Jefferson Healthcare but has since returned home and is “largely recovered,” he said.

Locke said that investigation found that the woman was infected in late March/early April. Tests can remain positive for up to six weeks, and the disease was confirmed last Friday, he said. She was hospitalized as a precaution, he added.

Locke outlined his recommendations, ranking the items that Phase 2 includes by high benefit/low risk, medium benefit/medium risk and low benefit/higher risk.

Among the high benefit/low risk category was manufacturing (non-essential repair, maritime industry, and others), additional construction phases, in-home domestic services (nannies, housecleaning, etc.), professional services/office-based business that are not tourism oriented with telework still strongly encouraged, and pet grooming for local customers only.

Among the medium benefit/medium risk category was outdoor activity with five or fewer people (no overnight camping), indoor gathering with five people and hair and nail salons/barbers open to local customers only.

Locke’s recommendation is to apply for all of the high benefit and medium benefit activities. He clarified that tourism is strongly discouraged.

Locke does not want to open businesses or activities “that encourage or would strongly stimulate tourism,” Locke said. “It’s just too early to be doing that.

“The time will come…but right now there is too much disease activity going on in the urban center.”

Locke’s recommendation can be read at tinyurl.com/PDN-Locke Recommendation.

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at [email protected].