Residential care facility is source of new JeffCo COVID cluster

26 new cases reported in last week

Posted 2/4/21

The rise in COVID-19 infections in Jefferson County in recent days is largely due to a cluster of COVID-19 infections in a local residential facility, county officials said Monday.

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Residential care facility is source of new JeffCo COVID cluster

26 new cases reported in last week


The rise in COVID-19 infections in Jefferson County in recent days is largely due to a cluster of COVID-19 infections in a local residential facility, county officials said Monday.

Public Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke would not provide details on the outbreak during his regular Monday update on the pandemic to county commissioners.

“I’m limited in what I can say about particular outbreaks,” Locke said. “But this is one we’re working really hard on and using our standard and very effective containment strategy.”

“We think that this is completely containable,” he added.

The residential care facility that is believed to be the location of the cluster outbreak did not respond to requests for information from The Leader.


Basic details on the spread of the coronavirus released Friday by Jefferson County Public Health included eight new cases of COVID-19.

The eight new cases all involve males. Seven of the new cases were in Port Townsend, and the eighth infection was discovered in a mid-county resident, according to a comparison between case statistics reported Thursday and the new overall numbers released Friday.

The day before, on Jan. 28, county health officials said five people under the age of 20 in Port Townsend tested positive for COVID-19.

County health officials stopped providing information on the locations, ages and genders of the residents who have tested positive for the coronavirus late last week.

According to Jefferson County Public Health, it will no longer release any details on those who have testec positive.

“Due to our growing workload, moving forward, we are no longer able to provide individual information about each case,” the health department said on its website.

Based on a comparison with prior individual cases, the eight new cases all involve males.

Seven of the new cases are in Port Townsend, and the eighth infection is in mid-county, according to a comparison between case statistics reported Thursday and the new overall numbers released Friday.


Locke told county commissioners Monday that Jefferson County has experienced other cluster outbreaks since the start of the pandemic. Such incidents have been common in other counties, he added.

“This is happening all the time around the state. We are dealing with outbreaks on a more or less continuous basis,” Locke said.

“This is a larger one than we’ve had in Jefferson County,” he said of last week’s outbreak. 

“Most counties have had many, many more of these than we have,” Locke added. “In Kitsap County, there’s about a dozen of these going on every day.”

While such outbreaks can be enormously time-consuming for health department staff, Locke said, outbreaks are easier to control than individual, scattered infections across the county.

“This is well within our ability to control and we think we’re largely there,” Locke told county commissioners.


The number of COVID-19 cases has been dropping across the country and Washington state.

Locke said cases nationwide have fallen 40 percent since the peak on Jan. 8.

Hospitalization rates have also dropped by about
24 percent.

In Washington state, there has been a 52 percent decrease in cases since the peak in January, and hospitalization rates have also plummeted by 19 percent.

Washington averaged 392 cases per 100,000 residents over the last two-week reporting period, with positivity of tests reported at 9.6 percent.

“These are still very high levels,” Locke said.

Over the last week in Jefferson County, however, the numbers have risen.

Locke said there were 26 new cases reported last week, up from eight cases from the week prior.

Jefferson County’s case rate has climbed from 72 COVID infections per 100,000 residents to 106.58 per 100,000.

“We’re now higher than Clallam County,” Locke said Monday.

Clallam’s rate is 84 per 100,000 residents. Kitsap County stands at 155 per 100,000 residents, and Mason County is at 174 per
100 residents.

“Things are improving but we’re still at a very high level and the risk of being exposed to this infection is still very high throughout Washington state,” Locke said.


The recent move of two regions of the state to Phase 2 of Governor Jay Inslee’s Roadmap to Recovery reopening plan, however, has left local leaders frustrated.

The two regions of Puget Sound and West moved to Phase 2, and the Puget Sound region includes three counties with the highest number of COVID-19 infections; King, Snohomish, and Pierce.

Lawmakers in the 24th District blasted the move late last week.

Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim), Rep. Steve Tharinger (D-Port Townsend) and Rep. Mike Chapman (D-Port Angeles) said in a statement that Inslee’s regional approach to reopening “takes away local input and decisions and ignores local health officer’s science-based knowledge.”

“Gov. Inslee’s recent change to the Roadmap to Recovery has left Clallam and Jefferson counties at a standstill for no good reason,” the three lawmakers said in a statement. “This new plan relies on inconsistent metrics and an overly broad, regional approach for decision-making that does not reward the citizens and businesses in Clallam and Jefferson who have faithfully complied with the governor’s orders.

“Transmission and case-rate metrics in Clallam and Jefferson counties prove we have worked well to control the COVID-19 pandemic and have a firm grasp on this situation. However, when grouped with widely dissimilar counties in an arbitrarily drawn region, our success is ignored,” they added.

The trio of 24th District leaders questioned Inslee’s approach was punishing counties that had worked well to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

“With these latest moves, however, we have lost faith that the governor is on a course to safely open Washington and beat COVID-19. He is reopening hot-spot counties based on poorly designed metrics that leave low-rate counties closed. This plan’s senseless punishment of counties with low COVID-19 rates leaves us no choice but to speak out in opposition,” the three lawmakers said in their statement Thursday.

“This is not a position we take lightly. But it is clear that the governor’s plan exhibits a disastrous disconnect with the realities of our communities and, as their elected representatives, we must demand a reopening plan that is fair and sound,” they added. “The current plan is neither.”


Local officials expressed frustration, as well, over the ability of other counties to reopen that have had less success in battling COVID-19.

“I’m frustrated with the state’s approach right now. It seems less scientific and more arbitrary,” Jefferson County Commissioner Greg Brotherton said Monday.

“I feel like we’re getting the short end of the stick,” he said.

Locke agreed the phased recovery strategy was based on flawed methodology, which he said could lead to flawed decision-making. 

King County, he added, had four times the COVID infection rate than Jefferson County.

Locke said he had real concerns that people in counties that had moved to Phase 2 would increase their risks of exposure to COVID, especially in light of restaurants reopening for indoor dining.

“We are going to see consequences of this,” Locke said.

Locke stressed that people across all Washington counties, as well as in states over the U.S., need to move beyond considering only their individual risk of getting COVID-19 and continue to take precautions such as masking for the greater good.

He noted that 13 states still have no masking requirements, and many still take the idea of masks as a political statement.

Those who are on the fence about masking need to change their position, he said.

“They need to get off the fence,” Locke said.

A national plan to control the pandemic is needed, especially as variant strains of COVID-19 become predominant.

“The pandemic will get even worse,” he said.

“Like it or not we are all in this together,” Locke said.


Public naysaying on the spread of COVID-19 continued at Monday’s meeting of the board of county commissioners, with the public comment period being marked by more claims of false positive COVID-19 tests by some Jefferson County residents.

Locke said some of the comments, and recent posts online, show that some people don’t want to believe that the pandemic is as severe as it is.

“That kind of denialism is becoming more dangerous,” Locke said.

“If people do not want to accept that the pandemic has the potential to become even worse, they should look at the variant data and try to explain that away.”

“And get on board. Start taking this seriously,” Locke said. “Together we can get to the other end of it.”

Locke continued that criticism late Monday, in a letter to a resident who questioned the accuracy of COVID-19 tests as being scientifically indefensible and blamed local health officials for accepting test results that show increasing numbers of infections.

“With the spread of more transmissible variants of SARS-CoV-2, the social cost of pandemic denialism is increasing,” Locke said in his response letter.

“If sizable numbers of people indulge in the wishful thinking that attempts to control COVID-19 transmission are unnecessary, it is only a matter of time before variant strains become predominant. We still have time to avert this future or at least slow it enough to allow widespread vaccine deployment. I urge you to join the community fight against COVID-19 and stop attacking those who are working long hours trying to protect their community from the worst public health emergency in the last 100 years,” Locke wrote.

Jefferson County had a total of 307 confirmed cases of COVID-19 through Monday.

Health officials said 23 people were in isolation, and another 23 residents were still awaiting test results.

Since the start of the pandemic, 22 people in Jefferson County have been hospitalized for COVID and two residents have died from the disease.