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:

May 18 update

Most recent info as of 1 p.m. May 18

County officials are forging ahead with the plan to apply for a Phase 2 variance, despite two new confirmed cases in Jefferson County.

The county now has had 30 coronavirus cases, but the last two were confirmed to have been infected back in March.

The latest, confirmed on May 18, was a Jefferson County resident who was living in Arizona at the time of infection, according to Locke.

The other, a woman over the age of 90, was given an antibody test, which helped health officials determine she was infected in March.

According to Locke, Jefferson County is still eligible to move to Phase 2 of the governor's "Start Safe" reopening plan, because zero new cases is not a requirement for the variance he said. 

County commissioners are expected to vote to approve or deny the Board of Health’s recommendation to move to Phase 2 of the governor’s “Safe Start” reopening plan on May 22. 

Commissioners Kate Dean, Greg Brotherton and David Sullivan will meet virtually at 2:30 p.m. to vote. The meeting will be streamed on the county website and aired live on KPTZ radio 91.9 FM.

May 14 update

Antibody tests helped health officials determine the most recent coronavirus patient in Jefferson County was actually infected with the virus back in March. 

“Based on our investigation of that case we had reason to believe that it might be an old case, that the infection had occurred weeks or months ago,” said Tom Locke, the county’s public health officer. 

According to Locke, both the patient — a woman in her 90s — and her caretaker both had COVID-19 antibodies.

Antibodies are a protein used by the body’s immune system to neutralize pathogens such as a virus like the coronavirus. 

The patient's caretaker had a negative test for the virus, leading health officials to believe both the patient and the caretaker had been infected back in March, when there were more transmissions within the community. 

“The patient who tested positive last week is one of the people we’re seeing more and more of,” Locke said. “A person with a positive test can shed low levels of the virus for six to eight weeks after they are infected. We have good evidence that they’re not infectious even though we can detect the virus in their nasal secretions.”

The patient has recovered from the illness, Locke said. 

Given the fact that this recent infection occurred in the later part of March, Jefferson County has not seen any new transmissions for five weeks now. 

“That’s not because we’re not doing a lot of testing,” he said. “The hospital has gotten up to 60 tests in a day. We are doing the amount of testing we want to be doing in the county and we are not finding anyone with infection.”

This also shows that there is no evidence an increase of tourism to the county is driving local infection, Locke said. 

May 11 update

Most recent info as of 10 a.m. May 11

Health officials confirmed a new COVID-19 patient in Jefferson County over the weekend.

The woman, who is over the age of 90, is currently hospitalized at Jefferson Healthcare. 

She is the first patient to be hospitalized locally. 

“She is in stable condition,” said Tom Locke, public health officer. 

Health officials began the case investigation and contact tracing this weekend, Locke said. 

“We benefited from some of the new tools we have,” he said. “We were able to get rapid testing. We tested several suspected contacts and were able to tell within 24 hours whether they were infected or not.” 

County health officials also have the capacity to do two types of “antibody” testing, he said. This allows health officials to learn if an asymptomatic person was infected. It also helps officials learn when someone was first exposed and infected with the illness. 

A new case puts the county’s plan to potentially loosen social gathering restrictions up in the air. 

Gov. Jay Inslee announced May 1 counties with small populations and no new cases in three weeks were allowed to apply for a “variance” to his “phase-in” plan for reopening businesses 

Under this criteria, Jefferson County would no longer be eligible to apply to reopen some businesses earlier than the rest of the state. 

But according to Locke, there has been discussion at the state-level as to whether this criteria is valid. 

Several counties, including Mason and Stevens, have applied to move to “Phase 2” of reopening, even though they did not fit within the governor’s criteria. 

Kittitas County, which was one of the original 10 counties allowed to apply for a variance, has now seen an outbreak at a meatpacking plant where 35 people were confirmed to be infected. 

“Zero cases is not a realistic goal for anyone,” Locke said. “I think it’s highly likely that the state will adopt alternate criteria.”

Locke is expected to release his recommendation tomorrow about which businesses should be allowed to reopen. Then, the Board of Health will discuss this recommendation at a meeting on May 14. 

This is just the first step in a community-involved process county commissioners have set for deciding which businesses can open according to the governor’s plan. 

May 6 update

Most recent info as of 4 p.m. May 6

The number of coronavirus cases in Jefferson County holds steady at 28. Of these cases, 26 people have recovered, according to the Department of Public Health. 

Meanwhile, the case count in the United States has climbed to 1.2 million.  In Washington, there are 15,594 cases and 862 people have died as a result of the coronavirus. 

At 5 p.m. on May 7, county commissioners will meet with the Port Townsend City Council and the Board of Health to discuss  loosening restrictions on businesses. Jefferson is one of 10 counties in the state Gov Jay Inslee has allowed to move ahead with "Phase 2" of reopening post-pandemic. 

To stream the meeting live, go to Jefferson County's website

May 4 update

Most recent info as of 4 p.m. May 4

As coronavirus cases in the United States pass 1.2 million, Jefferson County's case count of 28 has held steady for 25 days now.

“We’re definitely in the post-surge phase of this first wave of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Tom Locke, the county's public health officer, during his weekly briefing with county commissioners. 

On May 1, Gov. Jay Inslee announced the "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order would remain in place and the state would reopen in a series of phases over time. 

But he is allowing 10 counties, including Jefferson County, to go to the next phase early because of the county's low case count. Read more here.

This could include reopening all outdoor recreation or gatherings involving fewer than five people outside your household will be allowed. It would also include limited non-essential travel within proximity of your home; new construction; in-home domestic services; in-store retail; real estate and professional services/office-based businesses; hair and nail salons and barbers and restaurants at 50% capacity and a table size no larger than five. 

The Board of Health will convene for a meeting to discuss the possibility of moving to "Phase 2" of reopening at 5 p.m. on May 7. 

April 29 update

The death toll in the United States has climbed to more than 60,000 as a result of the coronavirus. 

In Jefferson County, 25 out of the 28 total patients who were confirmed to have the virus have now recovered, according to information from the Department of Public Health. 

Washington state's Department of Health reports more than 13,000 cases of coronavirus in the state and a total of 786 deaths. The death rate is 5.7%.

Gov. Jay Inslee announced his "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order will remain in effect past its original May 4 end date. 

Watch his press conference here.

April 28 update

The United States now has more than 1 million cases of the coronavirus. But Jefferson County’s case numbers have held steady for more than two weeks now. 

Of the 28 confirmed cases in Jefferson County, 24 people have recovered. 

According to Tom Locke, Jefferson County's public health officer, the state's definition of recovered is that it has been more than 28 days since the onset of illness, the person is alive, and the person is not hospitalized.

"In last week's determination of 'recovered' status, several Jefferson County cases had not yet passed the 28 day duration of illness mark," Locke wrote in an email response to questions from the Leader. "At least two were, to the best of our knowledge, still hospitalized.  This last category is difficult for us to verify since hospitals are not required to report to us the discharge status of their patients."

Gov. Jay Insee announced April 27 that outdoor activities such as fishing, hunting, golfing and hiking on public lands can resume on May 5. 

Inslee said restarting construction, which he announced could resume last week, and reopening outdoor activities is the first step of many to “reopen” Washington State. 

April 27 update

As the United States nears 1 million cases of the coronavirus, Jefferson County’s case numbers have held steady for more than two weeks now. 

Of the 28 confirmed cases in Jefferson County, 24 people have recovered. 

“Recovered means it has been more than a month and you are no longer hospitalized and you are alive,” said Tom Locke, Jefferson County’s public health officer at his weekly briefing with county commissioners on April 27. 

The death toll in the United States is more than 55,000, with a case fatality rate around 5%. 

In Washington state, there are now more than 13,500 confirmed cases and 749 deaths. 

While Washington was once the epicenter of the coronavirus in the U.S., the state’s cases are now just 1.3% of the country’s cases.

According to county administrator Philip Morley, the state government has placed an order for 1 million swabs to come from China, a necessary medical tool for testing people for coronavirus. 

“That underscores the fact that through our national supply system, we’re still very much challenged to get those swabs and viral fluid for being able to do widespread testing that’s necessary in order to do the contact tracing,” Morley said. “That’s a real concern that we just don’t have the supplies yet to do the broadscale testing that needs to happen in order to safely open our society.”

While there is still a lack of testing materials, Locke said the state has dramatically increased its testing ability. 

“We are now up to the point where we can do 20,000 tests a day in Washington state,” he said. “Within two weeks we’ll be up to 30,000 tests a day.”

This would mean that in Jefferson County, health officials could do 100 tests per day.  

“We’re still wrestling with this perverse shortage of testing materials,” Locke said. “But even that has improved. The barriers to testing are disappearing week by week.” 

In addition to increasing testing, the state and the CDC has added new symptoms to watch out for. 

Before, those with a fever, cough and shortness of breath were testing. Now, officials are also testing those who have chills, rigor, muscle pains, headaches, sore throat and the loss of taste or smell. 

“All of these are things we’re associating with coronavirus and we want to be testing people who have these kinds of symptoms,” Locke said.

April 20 update

We are still early in the trajectory of the coronavirus pandemic, said Jefferson County’s Public Health Officer Tom Locke at his weekly briefing with the Board of County Commissioners. 

The number of coronavirus cases in Jefferson County has held stable at 28 total positives for 11 days now. 

There have been 705 tests taken in the county since testing began in March. 

But nationally and statewide, the numbers continue to rise. 

The United States now has a death count of more than 41,000. In Washington, there have been more than 600. 

But social distancing must continue to prevent a new and even larger surge of cases. 

“If King and Snohomish counties were to stop their community mitigation efforts, they would start to be right back in exponential growth in one to two weeks,” Locke said. “And they’d be starting from a plateau, rather than a baseline. A surge at this point, if it resumed, would be three to five times worse than the surge they are having now.” 

The challenge in the coming months will be to resume economic activity, recreation and travel without triggering a new surge. 

“We think the current Stay Home, Stay Healthy mandate will stay in place for the duration of the order, until May 5,” Locke said. 

After that, activities such as construction could open back up, as well as recreational activities like hiking and fishing. 

“How fast we can move is in large part going to depend on how good we are at detecting and preventing transmission of new cases,” he said. “We can’t get rid of infection. There will always be this smouldering level of infection until most of the state is immune, either from natural means or from a vaccine.” 

Detecting and preventing transmission will require increased testing. 

“Our testing protocols up to this point have been defined by scarcity,” Locke said. “Scarcity of lab resources, scarcity even of the specimen collection. Those things are finally starting to be fixed.”

The state is supposed to get 1 million swabs on April 20, and Locke predicted the state will be able to start doing intense testing starting this week. 

According to Amy Yaley, communications director for Jefferson Healthcare, the number of calls to the COVID-19 hotline for those experiencing symptoms has dramatically decreased. 

“We average about 40 calls per day,” she said. “In March, the volume was in the hundreds per day.”

It is unknown how the state’s increase in testing supplies will trickle down to rural counties  like Jefferson, but as the county moves into the next phase of infection control, Jefferson Healthcare plans to increase testing capacity. 

“As we look toward May and hopefully starting back up elective surgeries, testing surgery patients and outpatient procedure patients will be critical to maintain the safety of our staff and minimize overuse of personal protective equipment,” Yaley said. “That being said, it will all be contingent on the recommendations from Public Health.”

Jefferson County continues to receive supplies on a weekly basis from the state, according to Willie Bence, director of the county’s Emergency Management Department. 

“We’re seeing needs being met around N95 masks, gloves and other supplies,” he said. “There are still shortages of gowns and eye protection.”

April 16 update

There have been no new cases of coronavirus in Jefferson County for one week. 

But Washington State Health Secretary John Wiesman said yesterday the virus will not be stopped until a vaccine has been created or treatments have been found. 

According to Jefferson County's Department of Emergency Management, community members are encouraged to continue with the recommended hand-washing techniques, staying at home and social distancing practices.

State health officials said the "new normal" will continue to look a lot like daily life does now, with telecommuting, physical distancing and use of facemasks in public. 

April 15 update

No new cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Jefferson County since last Thursday, according to County Public Health Officer Tom Locke.

“It has been similar in Clallam and Kistap counties,” he said."We have seen a real drop off in cases."

The regular flu season has also come to a screeching halt, he said.

"It goes to show that social distancing and enhanced infection control practices really do work," Locke said.

There have been 28 cases confirmed in the county as of April 15. There are still fve test results pending, according to the Public Health website. A total of 701 people have been tested in the county.

During a press conference on April 15, Gov. Jay Inslee highlighted the importance of remaining committed to social distancing in order to prevent a resurgence of cases. 

April 14 update

No new cases of coronavirus were confirmed in Jefferson County over the weekend, according to Public Health Officer Tom Locke. 

“This is the first weekend in over a month that we did not have to call in the public health nurses to do case investigation,” he said. 

There have been 28 cases confirmed in the county. There are still 10 test results pending, according to the Public Health website. A total of 669 people have been tested in the county. 

Locke said the community’s commitment to mitigation measures, such as social distancing, is working to stop the spread of the virus. 

No new cases of coronavirus were confirmed in Jefferson County over the weekend, according to Public Health Officer Tom Locke. 

“This is the first weekend in over a month that we did not have to call in the public health nurses to do case investigation,” he said. 

There have been 28 cases confirmed in the county. There are still 10 test results pending, according to the Public Health website. A total of 669 people have been tested in the county. 

Locke said the community’s commitment to mitigation measures, such as social distancing, is working to stop the spread of the virus. 

“It’s possible we are seeing flattening of the curve in Jefferson County,” Locke said. “I’m struck and gratified by how seriously people have taken this. Here on the West Coast we’re seeing the results. Washington, Oregon and California instituted these community mitigation measures first, and we’re seeing drops. We’re seeing peaking and the beginning of drops in cases up and down the entire west coast. The surge we were fearing has come in much lower than we thought it would.”

State officials originally predicted the “peak” of cases to hit in the middle of April. This peak actually occurred sometime last week, Locke said. 

For rural counties like ours, the peak was predicted to hit at the end of the month. But that peak could actually hit sometime in the coming week, he said. 

“We have not seen the surge in hospitalizations we feared,” he said. 

But that doesn’t mean these stringent stay-at-home measures can be lightened yet, he added. 

“We’re going to have to continue to do what we’re doing for April and probably much of May,” he said. 

In the United States, there are more than 500,000 cases of the coronavirus and more than 22,000 deaths. According to Locke, this is likely not an accurate number of deaths, as New York reports as many as 200 people a day are dying in their homes without having been tested. 

In Washington, there are more than 10,000 confirmed cases now and 508 deaths.

Locke said he hopes to increase testing in Jefferson County to get a clearer picture of the spread of infection. Washington state labs have increased the capacity to provide test results, but there is a shortage of test specimen kits.

“We are trying to get more specimen kits to increase testing,” he said. “We’d like to be testing virtually everyone who is sick and do more testing of contacts.”  

According to Willie Bence, director of emergency management for Jefferson County, the department received its first shipment of Personal Protective Equipment from the state’s Department of Emergency Management last Friday. 

“The state plans on getting several million of N95 masks, gowns, etc. over the next couple of weeks and has committed to supplying every county in the state,” Bence said. “Our most critical folks are pretty carefully rationing what they do have. None are on the verge of running out.”

Bence said he expects the county to receive another order of PPE later in the week. 

“It’s possible we are seeing flattening of the curve in Jefferson County,” Locke said. “I’m struck and gratified by how seriously people have taken this. Here on the West Coast we’re seeing the results. Washington, Oregon and California instituted these community mitigation measures first, and we’re seeing drops. We’re seeing peaking and the beginning of drops in cases up and down the entire west coast. The surge we were fearing has come in much lower than we thought it would.”

State officials originally predicted the “peak” of cases to hit in the middle of April. This peak actually occurred sometime last week, Locke said. 

For rural counties like ours, the peak was predicted to hit at the end of the month. But that peak could actually hit sometime in the coming week, he said. 

“We have not seen the surge in hospitalizations we feared,” he said. 

But that doesn’t mean these stringent stay-at-home measures can be lightened yet, he added. 

“We’re going to have to continue to do what we’re doing for April and probably much of May,” he said. 

In the United States, there are more than 500,000 cases of the coronavirus and more than 22,000 deaths. According to Locke, this is likely not an accurate number of deaths, as New York reports as many as 200 people a day are dying in their homes without having been tested. 

In Washington, there are more than 10,000 confirmed cases now and 508 deaths.

Locke said he hopes to increase testing in Jefferson County to get a clearer picture of the spread of infection. Washington state labs have increased the capacity to provide test results, but there is a shortage of test specimen kits.

“We are trying to get more specimen kits to increase testing,” he said. “We’d like to be testing virtually everyone who is sick and do more testing of contacts.”  

According to Willie Bence, director of emergency management for Jefferson County, the department received its first shipment of Personal Protective Equipment from the state’s Department of Emergency Management last Friday. 

“The state plans on getting several million of N95 masks, gowns, etc. over the next couple of weeks and has committed to supplying every county in the state,” Bence said. “Our most critical folks are pretty carefully rationing what they do have. None are on the verge of running out.”

Bence said he expects the county to receive another order of PPE later in the week. 

April 10 update

As of April 10, there are 28 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Jefferson County and more than 9,000 cases in the state. 

Officials say staying home over the Easter holiday weekend is imperative to continue "flattening the curve" and reducing the strain on local medical services.

"Stay well and stay home when you can, so we can be here for you," said Amy Yaley, director of public relations for Jefferson Healthcare. 

Clallam County's Department of Emergency Management sent out a press release asking residents to "stay home."

"Don’t go to the beach, don’t party, and don’t visit a friend or family member even for a one-on-one visit," read the press release. "The risk is too high to everybody given how easily this virus has been shown to spread among people."

According to Yaley, Jefferson Healthcare is in need of cloth masks for employees who do not perform direct patient care. 

"Jefferson Healthcare employees, not performing direct patient care, can wear a cloth mask if they are unable to maintain a social distance of 6 feet," Yaley said.  "We would like all of  these employees to have easy access to cloth masks and reserve the medical grade masks for our employees performing direct patient care. Please consider donating home-made cloth masks to our hospital workers. "

  • To learn how to make a mask, see the Leader's story with a face mask pattern included. 
  • Drop off masks at these locations:
    • Port Townsend Public Library: Outside Book Drop Box, 1220 Lawrence Street, Port Townsend, WA 98368
    • Jefferson County Public Library: Outside Book Drop Box, 620 Cedar Ave, Port Hadlock, WA 98339
    • Jefferson Healthcare Main and Waterside entrances
  • To learn more about the county's community mask project, go to the Department of Emergency Management's wesbite

April 9 update

Most recent info as of 12 p.m. 

There are now 27 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Jefferson County and more than 9,000 cases in the state. 

There have been 421 deaths in Washington, but none in Jefferson County.  

Jefferson Healthcare has performed 643 tests so far, according to the Public Health Department. The hospital's employees are staying safe by wearing N95 masks, respirator masks and paper gowns while interacting with all patients.

"No employee has tested positive from exposure to those patients," said Amy Yaley, director of public relations at Jefferson Healthcare.  "All employees performing patient care are masked and wear a face shield.  If an employee is caring for a COVID positive patient they would don an N95 respirator mask or a gown according to policy. "

But because of this, protective equipment such as masks are low. 

"We have an adequate supply of Personal Protective Equimpent (PPE), we have been receiving shipments, however they are not full shipments," Yaley said. "Since moving to more employees masked our burn rate for PPE has increased accordingly, which is concerning but our priority is to keep our staff safe so they can be there when the community needs them."

Citizens  have been advised to wear masks when in public, but to save medical supplies should wear cloth masks. 

The county is still in need of face masks for citizens. 

  • To learn how to make a mask, see the Leader's story with a face mask pattern included. 
  • Drop off masks at these locations:
    • Port Townsend Public Library: Outside Book Drop Box, 1220 Lawrence Street, Port Townsend, WA 98368
    • Jefferson County Public Library: Outside Book Drop Box, 620 Cedar Ave, Port Hadlock, WA 98339
  • To learn more about the county's community mask project, go to the Department of Emergency Management's wesbite

Masks should not replace social distancing measures, however. 

"Our Healthcare workers are safe right now because our community is doing what they need to do: staying home to be healthy," Yaley said. "While it seems like there is improvement in this battle we must remain vigilant with our extended stay order." 

The governor's Stay Home, Stay Healthy order is in place until May 4. All citizens who do not work in essential services should limit their interactions in public to grocery shopping once a week, going to the doctor or to the pharmacy. 

April 8 update

There are now 27 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Jefferson County and more than 8,000 cases in the state. 

Jefferson Healthcare has tested 643 patients. Officials await the results of 18 tests.  About 4.3% of tests have had negative results. 

The county is still in need of face masks for citizens. 

  • To learn how to make a mask, see the Leader's story with a face mask pattern included. 
  • Drop off masks at these locations:
    • Port Townsend Public Library: Outside Book Drop Box, 1220 Lawrence Street, Port Townsend, WA 98368
    • Jefferson County Public Library: Outside Book Drop Box, 620 Cedar Ave, Port Hadlock, WA 98339
  • To learn more about the county's community mask project, go to the Department of Emergency Management's wesbite

Public Health Officer Tom Locke advises that face masks are not a replacement for social distancing measures, but are to be used in addition to staying home, as directed by Gov. Jay Inslee's stay-at-home order. 

April 7 update

Most recent info as of 2:30 p.m. 

County in need of more face masks 

The county's Department of Emergency Management is seeking more face masks from those who are able to make and donate them. 

"County residents are in need of face masks and the supply is now much less than the demand," said Keppie Keplinger, deputy director of the emergency management department. 

 Donations of face masks can be delivered to Jefferson County Library book drop-off locations in Port Hadlock and Quilcene. 

The pattern and instructions can be found on the Department of Emergency Management’s wesbite. Scroll to the  bottom of the page for information on how to make face masks and where to donate them. 

April 6 update

Schools closed for the rest of the academic year

Gov. Jay Inslee announced today that Washington will join 13 other states that have closed in-person public and private schooling for the rest of the academic year. 

Students will instead continue distance learning until the end of June.

“This decision is made on the clear epidemiological evidence that in order to give us a higher degree of confidence that we will suppress this pandemic, we simply cannot take the chance of reopening on-site instruction in this calendar school year,” Inslee said. 

Whether or not schools will return to face-to-face learning in the fall is not yet known, Chris Reykdal, state superintendent, said. Returning to school too quickly and potentially risking individual outbreaks of COVID-19 may be too dangerous and it is too soon now to know he said. 

“We do not want that curve to suddenly spike back up because we acted too quickly to come back,” Reykdal said. 

Inslee said he hopes students will use this as an opportunity to embrace learning in a different way. 

In-person instruction for students will special needs and circumstances to ensure fair equity in education will be allowed as long as the necessary safety precautions are met.

Most recent cases

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 viru

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