Jeff Co stays stuck in Phase 2 as COVID cases climb

Posted 7/8/20

Three more cases of COVID-19 were discovered in Jefferson County over the weekend, Jefferson County Public Health Officer  Dr. Tom Locke said Monday.

The newest cases have been linked to a …

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Jeff Co stays stuck in Phase 2 as COVID cases climb

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Three more cases of COVID-19 were discovered in Jefferson County over the weekend, Jefferson County Public Health Officer  Dr. Tom Locke said Monday.

The newest cases have been linked to a fraternity party at the University of Washington, Locke told the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners at its meeting early this week.

Locke said 121 students at the university — 112 of them residents of frat houses — have contracted the disease.

The outbreak has since spilled into other counties, including Jefferson, Locke said.

The new cases in Jefferson County involve one person who attended a party at the UW, and two others that had contact with the partygoer.

The increase over the weekend pushed the total number of COVID-19 cases in Jefferson County to 41.

The three new infections involved a man in his 30s, a woman in her 30s, and a woman in her 70s. Locke said later that none of the three are currently in the hospital.

The uptick in cases followed Jefferson County’s request to the state to move into Phase 3 of the “Safe Start” reopening plan.

Any advancements in reopening in Washington, however, were put on two-week pause by Gov. Jay Inslee last week.

Inslee has also ordered all businesses in Washington state to require workers and customers to wear face masks. The “no mask, no service” standard started Tuesday, July 7. 

At Monday’s meeting of the board of commissioners, Locke said other COVID-19 cases in Jefferson County have been linked to travel outside the county, or from people here who have had out-of-town family or visitors. Some of the spread has been due to people who don’t know they have COVID-19 passing along the virus.

Nationwide, the outlook on containing COVID-19 continues to be grim.

“Certainly the news is not good, in terms of the coronavirus pandemic,” Locke told the board.

There have been more than 11 million cases worldwide confirmed, he said, and more than a half million deaths.

While some countries have done an excellent job at nearly eradicating coronavirus — including New Zealand, Vietnam and Thailand — Locke said the United States is officially the country that’s faring the worst in stopping the spread of COVID-19.

“The U.S. is decidedly not on that list of countries that have controlled this,” he said.

More than 2.8 million cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the U.S., Locke said, adding that the actual number is probably 10 times higher.

“We think that is just the tip of the iceberg,” Locke said.

Some individual states, he added, have more cases than entire countries in Europe.

Locke said people making summer travel plans should take into account the sizable spike in COVID-19 cases in southern states, particularly Texas, Arizona and Florida.

The number of coronavirus cases continues to escalate day after day in that part of the country, he said.

“Things are really out of control in those states right now,” Locke said.

And while states have pulled back on their reopening plans, none have gone back into full lockdown.

While Washington has been one of the states where the spread of COVID-19 had been stabilized, Locke added that the rate of new cases is on the increase again.

On a positive note, fewer cases of infection involve older and higher risk population groups.

That said, Locke added there has been a dramatic increase in the number of young people who have been infected with COVID-19.

Though the death rate of those in the 20-39 age group from coronavirus is much lower than older populations, Locke noted, “they are by no means immune from hospitalization or death.”

Medical treatment of COVID-19 is improving, however, and the county’s health officer said the survival rate is going up even for people who have the most serious complications from the disease, as well as those who have been put on ventilators.

That’s because medical professionals are getting better and better at treating coronavirus.

“People don’t like the term ‘medical practice,’ but it’s true. We learn by experience,” Locke said.

Basic changes in behavior remain important to slowing the spread of COVID-19; being outdoors is much safer than being indoors, and short periods of contact with other people is also safer than prolonged contacts.

And with each passing week, Locke said, the evidence that masks help control coronavirus continues to grow, along with social distancing and hand washing.

Locke said as many as 46 states now have masking requirements, and he added that all states may have such a mandate within the coming weeks.

Locke noted that mask wearing has become politically charged, and recalled seeing a sign that said “a face mask is not a political statement, it’s an IQ test.”

“If we are going to control this we are going to do it through universal masking,” he said.

Locke said he had recently done an informal survey on masks while getting groceries at the Safeway in Sequim.

Almost everyone was wearing a mask.

“I only saw one person in that entire store,” Locke said, who didn’t have a mask on.

“That was a gratifying sight.”

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