COVID-19 Live Updates

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The Port Townsend and Jefferson County Leader is dedicated to keeping our community informed and up to date. See updates below:

April 6 update

Washington state now has 7,984 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 338 deaths in the state. 

In Jefferson County, there are now 25 confirmed cases, according to Tom Locke, the county’s public health officer. 

This is five more than the 19 cases recorded on April 3. 

“We had a number reported over the weekend,” Locke said. “We are now in April and April is going to be the worst month for this in Jefferson County. We are going to see rising case counts and rising hospitalizations.”

According to Locke, there was one coronavirus patient hospitalized over the weekend.  

There have been a total of 567 tests taken at Jefferson Healthcare’s respiratory clinic and drive-through testing clinic. 

“Jefferson County is unusual among rural counties in that we’ve been able to do a much higher level of testing,” Locke said. 

The testing capacity in Washington state is increasing, he added, which will allow for surveillance testing in addition to testing those who are experiencing severe symptoms, which will give a clearer picture of how many people have the virus. 

“That’s starting to get close to the kind of testing capacity we need,” Locke said. “Every case we detect means that we can also identify contacts and put them into quarantine and limit the spread of the infection that way.”

The true number of cases is probably ten times more than confirmed, he said. 

Washington has been able to secure some significant supplies of masks and gloves from commercial sources, Locke said, and is expecting a supply of millions more N95 masks and surgical masks. 

But it’s still important that we conserve these resources, he said. 

“The federal government was able to supply ultimately very little from the national stockpile,” he said. “That stockpile is essentially empty now. Every state is pursuing protective equipment on international markets on their own.”

To watch Public Health Officer Tom Locke's weekly briefing, click here.

April 3 Update

Most recent info as of 4:18 p.m. April 3

The Port Townsend City Council will vote on a resolution next week to give emergency powers to Fort Worden so it can help facilitate a community response to the COVID-19 health crisis. 

This is one of several resolutions coming before the council Monday night that seek to implement creative changes to city government and services in response to the governor's "stay home, stay healthy" order and continued spread of the novel coronavirus. 

Because of the fort's designation as a public development authority, it is limited in its ability to do things outside of its normal charter. This proclamation will give the fort the power to "undertake any actions necessary to combat the spread of COVID-19," including converting or constructing additional facilities to be used for "emergency planning, emergency operations and emergency services," according to city documents. 

This however does not direct the PDA to undertake these actions, but allows it to "determine how it can best assist in the community-wide response to COVID-19."

Tom Locke, Jefferson County's public health officer will give a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic to county commissioners at their weekly meeting April 6. 

The briefing will begin at 9:45 a.m. It will be aired live on KPTZ 91.9 FM. It can be streamed through the county's website.

April 2 update

There are now 5,984 cases of coronavirus in Washington, with 247 deaths in the state. 

Gov. Jay Inslee extended his "stay-at-home" order until May 4.

"We have yet to see the full weight of this virus in our state," he said during a press conference on April 2.  "We are confident in the steps we have taken, but we cannot lose steam in the middle of this fight."

In Jefferson County, public health officials announced April 2 there are now 19 confirmed cases, with 39 tests still pending. 

A total of 545 patients have been tested in the county. More than 400 of those tests were negative. 

(Graphic from Washington State Department of Health)

At a briefing given to county commissioners on March 30, public health officer Tom Locke encouraged residents to have a plan in place for if someone in their household gets sick. 

"People who are COVID positive should not leave their houses," he said in an email response to questions from the Leader. "Family members who have been exposed to them (and thus are in quarantine) should also not leave the house."

While people should not hoard food, he said residents can have a two to three week supply of food at home. 

"The U.S. has abundant supplies of food and we anticipate no shortages," he said. "Grocery stores will have temporary shortages of certain items due to increased demands but that demand will eventually stabilize.  You can only use so much toilet paper."

The state Department of Health has a guide on what to do if someone in your household contracts the virus. The department recommends avoiding sharing personal items, like dishes, towels and bedding. It also recommends those who are sick monitor symptoms. 

The guide recommends people seek prompt medical attention if their illness is worsening (e.g., difficulty breathing). Before seeking care, people should call their healthcare provider and tell them that they have, or are being evaluated for, COVID-19. 

If you have COVID-19-like symptoms, call the Jefferson Healthcare hotline to be evaluated for a possible test. The hotline number is 360-344-3094. 

April 1 update

As of March 31st, there were 4,896 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Washington, with a total of 195 deaths in the state, although Washington's Department of Health has not updated the case numbers in several days due to technical difficulties in its COVID-19 data repository.

Jefferson County confirmed March 31 there are now 17 cases in the county, but officials await the results of 45 tests still. Half of the cases are individuals under the age of 50. 

Gov. Jay Inslee plans to hold a Q&A over Twitter at noon on April 2. Click here to submit your question to the governor via Twitter.

Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) will hold a Facebook live Town Hall on the federal government's response to COVID-19 at 4 p.m. on April 2. All are welcome to join the event by visiting  www.facebook.com/derek.kilmer. At the start of the event, a live video will appear at the top of Kilmer’s newsfeed. Participants who are logged into Facebook should click on the live video to watch the event in real time.

March 31 update

Most recent info as of 3 p.m. March 31

As of March 31st, there were 4,896 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Washington, with a total of 195 deaths in the state.

Jefferson County now has 17 confirmed cases, but officials await the results of 63 tests still.

Jefferson County is expecting to receive two more ventilators—the machines required to help patients experiencing severe symptoms of COVID-19 keep breathing. As of now, Jefferson Healthcare only has four of these machines. 

Twenty percent of people who contract COVID-19 will need hospital care, according to public health officer Tom Locke. Around 6% will need intensive care and mechanical ventilation.

With the hope of meeting the challenge of a global pandemic head-on, Jefferson Healthcare has spent the last few months transforming the hospital, located on Sheridan Street in Port Townsend, into a facility equipped to handle the “surge” of coronavirus patients that could come in the future.

They are working to double their capacity, by limiting elective surgeries and turning those now unused wards into extra ICU rooms for COVID-19 patients. 

In addition, the Department of Emergency Management has secured a facility to use as a temporary morgue. They are also continuing to request more Personal Protective Equipment for healthcare workers. 

“We will prepare to face this and get through this,” said Joe Mattern, Chief Medical Officer at Jefferson Healthcare. “I would also ask the community to do what you can from a standpoint of spacing and social distancing and staying healthy. I would love this to be the greatest intellectual exercise that any of us have taken in our careers.”

March 30 update

There are now 16 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Jefferson County, with 68 tests still pending. 

Seven of the 16 confirmed cases are patients over the age of 60, according to Jefferson County Public Health. Nine of the cases are below the age of 49. Two patients are in their 20s. 

“I would describe this last month as something like no other that we have experienced in public health and human history,” said Tom Locke, public health officer for Jefferson County. 

In Washington state, there are now more than 4,000 confirmed cases. But the state is no longer the epicenter of the virus. 

New York has the highest number of cases, with more than 60,000 and 1,063 deaths. The United States now has the most cases in the world, with more than 100,000 cases confirmed.

Preliminary data shows that Washington’s efforts to stop the spread with Gov. Jay Inslee’s “stay home” order might be having a positive effect. 

“Washingtonians are stepping up and staying home,” Inslee said. 

March 27 update

The U.S. now has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world, with more than 86,000 cases reported. 

Washington state has more than 3,000 cases with a total of 147 deaths as of March 27. 

“There is very preliminary evidence that the stay at home efforts in Washington may be having some positive effect,” wrote Tom Locke, Jefferson County’s Public Health Officer in a statement from the Jefferson County Emergency Operation Center’s daily situation report.

“The governor expressed a concern that these efforts may not be evenly practiced across the state,” he said. “We want to make sure that Jefferson County is leading the state in the stay at home efforts. We are at a critical state and our efforts in the next two weeks will determine if we will be able to manage the medical surge.”

Twenty percent of individuals who contract the illness will need hospital care, which is why it is imperative citizens stay home to stop a surge of patients which will strain medical resources.

Six percent of patients will need intensive care and mechanical ventilation, Locke said. 

According to Amy Yaley, director of public relations at Jefferson Healthcare, the hospital only has four ventilators. 

For now, patients who have serious complications will benefit from the most advanced life saving measures available only in Seattle-based “tertiary care” hospitals. While space is available in these hospitals, such as Harborview Medical Center, patients will be airlifted there. 

“Right now, Seattle hospitals are ‘pre-surge,’” Locke said. “They have the capacity to accept transfers. Sometime in the future this will change.”

While we are not at that point yet, Jefferson Healthcare is preparing policies for handling an increase in patients. To learn more about what the hospital is doing to prepare, watch this livestream, where hospital officials including Locke, and Jefferson Healthcare doctors Joe Mattern, Tracie Harris and Steven Butterfield.

March 26 update

As of March 26, 11 Jefferson County residents have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Jefferson County Public Health.  

Four cases were caused by in-county transmission. 

The number of cases have increased in surrounding counties. Clallam County is now reporting four positive cases with 81 tests still pending, while Island County has increased to 52 positive cases. 

Island County Public Health is investigating a confirmed COVID-19 outbreak at Careage of Whidbey in Coupeville. Twenty-four cases have been confirmed by the State Department of Health at this facility, located in downtown Coupeville. Test results are pending for other residents and employees. This is the only known outbreak of COVID-19 associated with a long-term care facility in Island County.

Jefferson County’s Public Health Officer Tom Locke says the governor’s stay-at-home order is imperative to stopping the spread of the virus. 

Twenty percent of confirmed cases develop severe illness requiring hospitalization. Around 6% of cases require intensive care and mechanical ventilation. 

“Those with mild infection who refuse to alter their activities end up infecting multiple people, driving the spread of the pandemic,” Locke wrote in a press release on March 25. 

High risk populations (individuals over the age of 60, pregnant women, or those with chronic heart and lung disease, diabetes, or immune suppression) are at greatest risk of severe disease and life threatening complications. 

But those in lower risk groups are not totally immune from complications. Acute respiratory distress syndrome, the deadly complication of COVID-19, can occur in adults of all ages, Locke said. 

March 25 update 

The trajectory of the coronavirus epidemic lies in the hands of the community itself.

That is according to Dr. Tom Locke, Jefferson County’s Public Health officer, who says Gov. Jay Inslee’s order demanding Washingtonians stay at home is absolutely necessary.

“If people don’t take this seriously, the consequences will be dire,” Locke said.

Washington state has surpassed 2,000 cases with more than 100 deaths, and Jefferson County now has evidence of community-transmission of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

One more case was confirmed March 25. There are now nine cases of COVID-19 in Jefferson County—three of which were caused by “in-county” exposure.

Turnaround time for submitted specimens has been as long as one week, according to Jefferson County Public Health.

Access to testing for COVID-19 infection is seriously limited due to a lack of supplies. While the liquid reagents used in the test kits are no. longer in short supply, there is a lack of Dacron swabs and viral transport media necessary to collect specimens and send them to testing labs, according to a press release from Public Health. 

For more on the limited testing and the seriousness of Gov. Jay Inslee's stay-at-home order, read our story on local testing. 

Not only is there a short supply of testing material, but overloaded public and private labs can only process a finite number of tests per day.  Jefferson Healthcare is prioritizing testing in accordance with State guidelines with the hope that testing access will improve with each passing week.

If you have flu-like symptoms, call the Jefferson Healthcare COVID-19 hotline: 360-344-3094. 

March 24 update

Jefferson County Sheriff's Office will be enforcing Gov. Jay Inslee's statewide "stay home" order, but will not be conducting random compliance checks. 

"Willful violation of this order is enforceable under RCW 43.06.220(5) and is a gross misdemeanor," read a statement from Sheriff Joe Nole released on March 24. "The goal of the Sheriff’s Office is to keep our community safe and we are requesting that citizens comply."

Inslee's order, which goes into effect on March 25, requires all Washingtonians who do not work in essential services to stay home. 

A list of essential services can be found at  coronavirus.wa.gov

As of March 24, Jefferson County Public Health has confirmed one new case of coronavirus. There are now a total of nine cases in the county. 

March 23 update

Statewide "stay home" order

Gov. Jay Inlsee announced Monday afternoon a state-wide “stay home” order. 

Starting in 48 hours, Washingtonians who do not work in essential services will be asked to stay at home in order to prevent the continued spread of COVID-19 for a minimum of two weeks.

People are asked not to leave their home except to go to the grocery store, the pharmacy or to the doctor. Any gatherings be they religious or social are forbidden. 

Those who work in the healthcare industry, media, local governments and the public protection industry will continue to work. 

This does not mean people can not go outside Inslee said. He encourages people to seek physical activity and enjoyment outdoors as needed but to remember to maintain a six-foot distance from other people. 

This comes after many other U.S. states issued similar shelter in place orders last week including California and New York. 

Inslee said this does not however affect restaurants who may continue to provide takeout service.

“The fastest way to get back to normal is to hit this hard,” he said. “The more of us who stay home, the fewer of us will be infected with COVID-19.”

Inslee also urged people not to go out and buy large amounts of groceries.
“If we all maintain our normal shopping habits there will not be empty shelves.”

In-county transmission

Jefferson County Public Health officials have now found evidence of in-county transmission of the novel coronavirus—and officials will ramp up their response as a result, according to Vicki Kirkpatrick, director of the Public Health Department.

A critically-ill man in his 40s was transferred to a Seattle-area hospital for intensive care late in the day on March 21. Jefferson County Public Health determined he was likely exposed to the virus within the community, marking the second case of in-county transmission.

"This case offers a stark reminder that coronavirus can cause life threatening illness in people younger than 60 years of age," wrote Public Health Officer Tom Locke in a press release.

There are now eight confirmed cases in Jefferson County. Two new cases were announced earlier on March 21, and another on March 23. Both were female individuals, one in her 20s and the other in her 70s, according to the press release.

One case was determined to be an "out-of-county" exposure. The other two likely had exposure to the coronavirus infection within Jefferson County.

A number of Jefferson County residents have been exposed to these confirmed cases and have been placed in 14-day quarantine.

Willie Bence, director of emergency management, said Jefferson County residents should anticipate the governor issuing a “shelter-in-place” order within the next few weeks. 

He also urged Jefferson County Commissioners to request the governor make that order.

“Ideally, we’ll take steps that, in hindsight, seem like overprepardeness,” he said. “I do worry about not taking that step and worrying about it later on.” 

Gov. Jay Inslee is set to give a press conference on Washington's response to the coronavirus today at 5:30 p.m.

Tests results on the newly confirmed cases took more than one week to be processed by the testing labs. Locke explained in the press release that this reflects the ongoing problems with timely access to testing results.

In addition to extreme testing delays, Jefferson Healthcare continues to see shortages of specimen collection supplies. 

“Supplies are in a critical state,” said Amy Yaley, director of public relations for Jefferson Healthcare. “Centralizing screening and testing allows us to minimize our Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) use. Eliminating non-emergency surgery helps as well. We are still receiving supplies but they don’t exceed the amount we are using.”

Right now, the hospital has adequate supplies, Yaley said. But if the number of patients increases, the supplies they have will not be enough. 

The hospital averages around 42 tests per day. 

“Criteria and prioritization has to occur,” Kirkpatrick said. “Right now, we have to test those who are most vulnerable and sick with the illness and ask others who may be experiencing symptoms to self-isolate.”

Whether tested or not, anyone experiencing symptoms, no matter how mild, should self-isolate, Kirkpatrick said. 

Those experiencing symptoms should call Jefferson Healthcare's COVID-19 hotline: 360-344-3094. 

Consult line staff is available seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Initially, phone staff will ask you COVID-19 information screening questions. Then, a nurse will call you back within 48 hours to evaluate respiratory illness health concerns and screen for COVID-19 testing. If the nurse determines you should be tested, an appointment will be scheduled at either the COVID-19 Evaluation Station or the Drive-Through Testing Station, based on Jefferson Healthcare’s current, established criteria.

“Our Drive-Through testing station allows us to test high numbers of community members quickly, minimize exposure and minimize PPE usage,” Yaley said. 

The biggest issue the hospital is facing right now is the wait time for test results because testing labs are overwhelmed. 

Both Locke and Kirkpatrick urged Jefferson County residents, both sick and healthy, to stay home. 

"Now is the time to stay home, stay healthy," Locke wrote. "This is not the time for vacation travel, flocking to public beaches, congregating unnecessarily in groups, or visiting elderly friends and family."

March 22 update

Jefferson County Public Health officials have now found evidence of in-county transmission of the novel coronavirus.

A critically-ill man in his 40s was transferred to a Seattle-area hospital for intensive care late in the day on March 21.
Jefferson County Public Health determined he was likely exposed to the virus within the community, marking the second case of in-county transmission.

"This case offers a stark reminder that coronavirus can cause life threatening illness in people younger than 60 years of age," wrote Public Health Officer Tom Locke in a press release.

There are now seven total confirmed cases in Jefferson County. Two new cases were announced earlier on March 21. Both were female individuals, one in her 20s and the other in her 70s, according to the press release.

One case was determined to be an "out-of-county" exposure. The other more likely had an exposure to the coronavirus infection within Jefferson County.

A number of Jefferson County residents have been exposed to these confirmed cases and have been placed in 14-day quarantine.

Tests results on the newly confirmed cases took more than one week to be processed by the testing labs. Locke explained in the press release that this reflects the ongoing problems with timely access to testing results.

In addition to extreme testing delays, Jefferson Healthcare continues to see shortages of specimen collection supplies, such as swabs.

"For individuals who are sick (fevers with cough or shortness of breath), isolating at home, whether they have tested or not, is important," stated Dr. Joe Mattern, chief medical officer of Jefferson Healthcare. "It is ideal to stay at home and isolate for up to 72 hours after they feel well again in particular, no fever.  If someone has tested for COVID-19, then they should be self-isolating at home until they receive results or have been well for 72 hours.”  

March 20 update

Jefferson County Public Health has now tested 332 people in the county for the novel coronavirus and await the results of 223 tests. 

Four tests have come back positive, but were determined to be “out-of-county” exposures and not yet indicative of community-spread of the virus. 

Two cases have now been confirmed in Clallam County. There are 12 cases confirmed in Kitsap County, according to Public Health Officer Tom Locke. 

There are now 1,524 recorded cases in the state of Washington with a total of 83 deaths. 

Gov. Jay Inslee urged Washington residents to follow state orders  and maintain social distance during a press conference March 20.  

"We've had some success," he said. "There's a lot of people staying home. ... But we need to continue to ramp up that effort and continue to keep the pressure on."

Inslee said the state will continue to monitor data, such as case numbers and deaths, and said there could be stricter orders in the future, if numbers do not decrease. 

Watch the full conference here

Rep. Kilmer calls for more ventilators

Representative Derek Kilmer (D-WA) joined a group of 17 members of Congress from the Pacific Northwest calling for more ventilators to be sent to the region and for the federal government to develop a national manufacturing goal for new ventilators.

“Our hospitals across the region have grown more concerned that in a short time they will be overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients as intensive care unit capacity is reached,” said the lawmakers in a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, the administration’s lead on the COVD-19 response.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper recently announced that he is providing 2,000 ventilators to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) to support the ongoing response to COVID-19. 

Data collected by HHS and the American Association for Respiratory Care shows that Washington and Oregon only have 13 ventilators per 100,000 people and Idaho only has 12 ventilators per 100,000 people. Comparatively, the state median number of ventilators per 100,000 people is 20.5.

The full text of the letter sent to Vice President Mike Pence can be read here

Unemployment claims spike

The state has seen the amount of unemployment insurance claims nearly double in the past week, after many restaurant workers were laid off temporarily. From March 8 to March 14, 14,154 people filed for unemployment insurance through the Employment Security Department.  The week prior, there were only 6,548 claims.

On March 18, Gov. Jay Inslee issued a 30-day eviction ban for residential tenants.  

"No person should be put out of their home because they can’t pay rent during the COVID-19 outbreak," he said.  

He also called on public utilities to suspend shut-offs, waive late fees for out-of-work customers and expand bill assistance for economically impacted customers. 

City, county officials meet

Jefferson County Commissioners and the Port Townsend City Council met March 18 in a teleconference call with business owners and local community leaders, as well as Public Health Officer Tom Locke. 

Locke thanked business owners for taking mitigation measures seriously and closing their restaurants and shops to the general public, saying it will help “flatten the curve” and support the local medical services.

“The most important way you can support the medical community is slowing the spread of transmission,” he said. 

Business owners aired their concerns about supporting their own employees, many of whom have been laid off for the duration of the closures. 

Local legislators discussed programs for business owners and employees, including loans from LION (Local Investing Opportunities Network), the Small Business Administration, grants from the Department of Commerce and Business & Occupation tax relief. 

The legislators also read submitted comments from members of the public, who suggested ideas for organizing volunteerism, community support, donations and communication of information regarding COVID-19 to the public. 

The meeting was broadcast live on KPTZ 91.9 FM. It is available to watch on the city’s website, at cityofpt.us

LION establishes loan program

LION, the Local Investing Opportunities Network, has established a new loan program for Jefferson County businesses and nonprofits that need funding to deal with the COVID-19 emergency. 

The loan application and instructions are downloadable from the LION website at L2020.org under local investing opportunities. A fast track process has been established to handle the applications. 

PUD suspends disconnects 

The Jefferson County PUD has suspended all disconnects and late fees due to non-payment until further notice. Customers experiencing financial difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic are asked to call the PUD to make payment arrangements as soon as possible. Despite the office closure, Customer Service is available by phone at (360) 385-5800, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

March 19 update

Most recent info as of 4:30 p.m. March 19

Jefferson County Public Health has now tested 289 people in the county for the novel coronavirus and await the results of 182 tests. 

Four tests have come back positive, but were determined to be “out-of-county” exposures and not yet indicative of community-spread of the virus. 

One case has now been confirmed in Clallam County, raising the total number of cases on the Olympic Peninsula to five. 

There are 1,376 recorded cases in the state of Washington with a total of 74 deaths. 

City and County government

The Jefferson County Commissioners and Port Townsend City Council will hold a joint meeting at 5 p.m. on March 19 to discuss the economic impacts of the coronavirus. Members of Jefferson County Public Health, Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, the Emergency Operations Center, Jefferson Community Foundation, PT Main Street, Local Investing Opportunities Network (LION), Economic Development Council, Port of Port Townsend, and others will attend the meeting virtually and in person. 

To stream the meeting live, go to cityofpt.us. 

The Jefferson County offices including the County Courthouse and City of Port Townsend offices  have closed their doors to the public for drop-in business to protect employees and members of the public from the spread of the coronavirus. 

County operations will continue via phone, email, websites, drop boxes and by pre-arranged appointment.

Essential services, such as court proceedings, law enforcement, road maintenance and solid waste will not be affected at this time. The Jefferson County Transfer Station will remain open. Open public meetings will also remain open to attend, but citizens are asked to access those remotely through the county’s website whenever possible.

Citizens should contact the appropriate department if they need assistance in completing county business remotely or to request an appointment. Instructions for doing that will be posted on the county website, at www.co.jefferson.wa.us.

Jefferson Transit 

A unanimous vote at the Jefferson Transit Authority special board meeting Wednesday afternoon declared an emergency. Like the emergency declarations by the city and county, this gives Jefferson Transit the power to act more quickly to respond to emergency situations and to close their offices to the public. 

Jefferson Transit General Manager Tammi Rubert said she does not currently see a need or the possibility to decrease bus service but that ridership numbers are down as people are social distancing and staying at home.

She said the only obstacles she could see to service was if they became unable to provide maintenance to their buses or were unable to get some necessary supplies to stay open. 

Information on ridership numbers will be available early next week but Rubert said at the March 18 meeting that it was "looking pretty bleak".

Jefferson County Transit will now go fare free and allow people to enter through the back doors of the bus, to protect the driver from possible exposure. There will be a six foot space behind the driver taped off in order to enforce social distancing between the driver and passengers. 

Rubert said her office was brainstorming ways Jefferson Transit could help out the community including delivering food to people. 

The Jefferson Transit Authority Board is also discussing ways to stay in accordance with state law regarding public meetings. They are planning on ways for members of the public, members of their board and members of the citizen advisory committee to participate in open meetings remotely. 

Chimacum School District

The Chimacum School District released their plan to provide free meals to kids in their district during the school closure late Tuesday night.

Today is the first day food will be made available at Chimacum Creek Primary School and the main Chimacum Schools campus from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. through Friday.

Students must be present to pick up food but they do not have to be students of the district or provide any form of identification. They must only show up in order to be given a bag with breakfast and lunch items. 

The district is currently working with the bus drivers union to have food delivered via regular bus routes next week. 

Grocery stores

Local grocery stores have been out of several essential items for the past week like most places across the world after a panic buy of toilet paper and other hyigene items. 

As of late morning March 19 the Port Townsend QFC is fully restocked with toilet paper and is allowing one package purchase per customer.

Safeway shelves continue to be bare but a sign indicates a limited number is available by request at the customer service desk also one per customer. 

Safeway stores across the U.S. have also implemented a specific day and time for senior shoppers or those who are vulnerable to the virus to access supplies at hours where there will be reduced traffic in the store. 

Safeway's "senior day" is Tuesdays and Thursday from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. 

March 18 update

Both Jefferson County and the City of Port Townsend declared a state of emergency March 16 as the county has now seen its fourth confirmed case of the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19.

According to Jefferson County Public Health Officer Tom Locke, all four positive tests have been investigated and determined to be “out-of-county exposures,” meaning the individuals were not exposed to the virus in Jefferson County.

But these cases could indicate the beginning of community transmission within the county, he said.

“We think we are starting to see evidence of transmission from one of these Seattle-exposed cases to other people in Jefferson County,” Locke said in a briefing Monday. “That’s exactly what we expect. Given the lags in testing time, we don’t have that confirmed.”

Jefferson County Public Health has identified everyone who was in contact with the three infected individuals and they have been put in quarantine—staying home from work and having their vitals monitored to see if they show signs of sickness within the next 14 days. The infected individuals who are in isolation, he said.

The most recent case, confirmed March 17, is a male in his 60’s. Jefferson County Public Health has notified all people identified as having been in close contact with the affected individual during the period of possible transmission. The individual had possible out-of-county exposure to the virus.

A state of emergency declaration allows the county and city to be eligible for funding assistance while businesses, organizations and individuals are affected by the virus.

City of Port Townsend officials urged citizens Monday night at city council to take precautionary measures issued by the state and other agencies seriously as they continue to weather this health, and now economic, crisis.

“There are some big questions here that will require us to work together more deeply than we may ever have,” City Manager John Mauro said.

Keppie Keplinger, deputy director of the county’s Department of Emergency Management, said individuals and businesses should document all unusual costs and expenses during this time.

On March 16, Gov. Jay Inslee issued a statement announcing the statewide closure of restaurants, bars and events with gatherings of 50 people or more.

“I know there will be significant economic impacts to all our communities. But every hour counts as we bend the curve of infection,” Inslee said. “We have and will continue to take steps to mitigate those challenges.”

On March 14, Inslee announced that all public and private schools will be closed for the next six weeks.

SOCIAL DISTANCING

While these measures might seem premature for Jefferson County—where there is no proof yet of community spread of the disease—Locke said the timing is just right.

“The social distancing that we’re doing is having an effect, but it’s not enough,” he said. “We need to get more serious about slowing it down. The reason for that is medical surge.”

This is where the term “flattening the curve” comes into play. Health officials are trying to prolong the spread of the virus, so the peak of the virus’ spread does not overwhelm medical services.

According to Locke, 80% of people infected will have mild or unapparent illness, which is one reason it can spread so fast. There are 20% of people who will be ill enough to be bed-ridden, and a smaller percentage are going to need hospital care. If all of those people get sick at once, it could overwhelm local capacity to provide services.

“We have limited hospital and healthcare capacity to deal with that surge,” Locke said. “We have to slow down the spread so it matches up with the capacity of the medical care system to deal with the sickest of the sick. We don’t want to be in the situation that Northern Italy is.”

Locke said Jefferson County is more prepared to deal with the virus than King County was when the virus first appeared several weeks ago. Testing is occurring through Jefferson Healthcare’s COVID-19 hotline. Those who are experiencing signs of a respiratory illness, such as coughing and shortness of breath, can call 360-344-3094 and a nurse will evaluate the symptoms and make an appointment for the individual to come to the hospital’s special clinic where they will be tested.

Locke said testing is more available than it has been in the past few weeks, but that it is still slow.

“It has been very delayed,” he said. “It’s still not as available as it needs to be.”

The hospital has the ability to take nose swabs and send samples to the state and the University of Washington labs. Results come back to the county within 24 hours.

But health professionals are also dealing with a shortness of supplies, including swabs and the viral transport liquid. The country as a whole is also dealing with a shortage of personal protective equipment, such as masks and gowns.

“We don’t have an adequate supply,” Locke said. “We need to conserve what we have.”

Locke said another problem the country faces is dysfunctional leadership at a national level.

“We have one side of the partisan line that is anti-government, anti-science and wants to diminish the seriousness of this,” he said.

But he said Jefferson County is taking guidance from the state government and the World Health Organization.

“We are extremely well organized in this county,” he said. “This is not a time for people to panic by any means. Epidemics like this are part of human history.”

EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS

While the Department of Public Health is the lead agency organizing Jefferson County’s response to COVID-19, the Department of Emergency Management is offering support services.

Right now, the department is determining where individuals experiencing homelessness can go if they need to be quarantined or in isolation.

“We are actively looking for the right places to set up as care spaces for those individuals,” Keplinger said.

“Nobody knows how long this is going to last,” she said. “We are continuing to look at how to organize food delivery, securing a place for people who don’t have a place to live and trying to get information out to the community.”

The department is also able to help individuals get connected with their Neighborhood Preparedness Groups, or “NPREPs.”

There are currently more than 100 neighborhood organizations in Jefferson County that can look out for one another during times of emergency.

“NPREP is doing what they came into existence to do,” Keplinger said. “They are looking after their families and their neighbors and making sure they are OK.”

To learn if you live in a neighborhood that has a preparedness group, contact NPREP@L2020.org or the Department of Emergency Management.

The department also plans to coordinate volunteers, should other departments, such as public health, need them.

“We will be looking for volunteers to help agencies and put together a process on how to do that,” Keplinger said.

They will likely need volunteers who have specialized skills such as medical training, but also those who can do basic support tasks such as making copies, answering phones or bookkeeping.

To stay updated on if your volunteer service is needed, check the Department of Emergency Management website regularly, at www.co.jefferson.wa.us/950/Dept-of-Emergency-Management.

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