COVID-19 infections surge in Jefferson County

Posted 11/18/20

The number of COVID-19 cases is spiking in Jefferson County, Public Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke said Monday.

A total of 31 new cases of the …

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COVID-19 infections surge in Jefferson County


The number of COVID-19 cases is spiking in Jefferson County, Public Health Officer Dr. Tom Locke said Monday.

A total of 31 new cases of the coronavirus have been found in county residents in the week since Monday, Nov. 9.

“The news is not good,” Locke said Monday.

Washington state is also seeing a dramatic uptick in COVID infections, which prompted Gov. Jay Inslee to announce expanded restrictions on businesses and public activities during a press conference Sunday.

During his weekly update on the pandemic Monday, Locke told Jefferson County commissioners that new COVID-19 infections have been averaging 1,800 a day in Washington.

“We have shot up,” he said. “Cases have increased by 124 percent in the last two weeks; they’ve more than doubled.”

In Jefferson County, 11 new cases were reported by local health officials earlier this week. That followed 20 confirmed tests of COVID-19 from the week before.

A surge in COVID cases is being seen all across the state and the country.

“Probably the starkest statistic I could say is that we all know we’re heading into a crisis in Washington state,” Locke told county commissioners.

A number of counties are heading into the exponential growth phase, he added, which is the most dangerous stage of the pandemic.

“This is where you get into the potential of overwhelming hospitals and medical capacity,” Locke said.

“When you are in exponential growth, everything is more dangerous for everyone,” he added.

People have let down their guard, Locke said, and have gone out in public without masks, and held house parties and gatherings.

“Here in Jefferson County we’ve seen a major surge in the last two weeks, and especially in the last week,” Locke said.

Two of the infections were linked to contacts between an infected person and their family members.

Two other COVID cases came from contacts between two close friends.

Another two cases came when local residents visited friends outside of Jefferson County, but returned home and tested positive.

Four of the cases in the past week were traced to residents who traveled out of state, but tested positive when they came home.

Three people who tested positive for the disease had hosted out-of-county visitors who stayed in their household.

Two other COVID cases were linked to residents who have been working outside of Jefferson County and became infected before coming back. 

Another four cases stem from an extended family that had a lot of interaction between their separate households, Locke said.

In the week before, the jump in cases came from a significant outbreak in the mid-county area.

A cluster of six close friends under the age of 20 had created their own pod, Locke said, and one person in the group ended up infecting two household members, and then the spread extended to the rest of the pod.

Locke said health officials are starting to notice a trend: People are treating their friends like members of their own household, and becoming less wary of spreading COVID.

The result is multiple households becoming linked together.

Earlier during the COVID discussion at the meeting Monday, commissioners said they were worried about the impact of the pandemic on the community.

“This is a very difficult time for a lot of people,” said Commissioner David Sullivan. “It’s a troubling time for families, approaching the holidays; people trying to figure out what to do.”

“It’s a time where I think everybody needs to be a lot more careful,” he said.

Commissioner Kate Dean said she had “a really deep concern about the economic well-being of our community.”

“I recognize that the governor’s order is going to create a lot more layoffs again and that we don’t have the same safety nets we had in place last time. And that’s really, really unsettling,” she said. “It’s devastating for a lot of families, especially service workers. 

“It’s infuriating, frankly, that the federal government is not offering any further support as we go into this even bigger third wave,” Dean added.

Dean said she was hoping to get additional details about the state’s COVID response during a call later this week with state officials.

“We know that this is going to be devastating, and my heart goes out especially to business owners who are closing down again,” Dean said. “We heard them say doing it once was hard. Doing it twice is going to be a nail in the coffin for many of them.”

Dean stressed her trust in public health experts as the pandemic continues, but noted that she was seeing a lot more skepticism of the science involved — even locally.

“It’s disturbing to me to see so much distrust there,” she said.

“If we are part of this grand conspiracy, when are we going to get our checks in the mail for supporting it?” Dean added sarcastically. 

She noted the dedication and hard work of public health officials in combating COVID, from case tracers to emergency room personnel.

“It’s just insulting to think that there’s anything behind this other than the desire to save the most lives,” she said.

Dean added that she hopes the community can resist the spread of untrue rhetoric and conspiracy theories.

“It’s offensive. It’s damaging. And I think we can do better,” Dean said.

County health officials said the total number of COVID-19 infections in Jefferson County had climbed to 123 by Nov. 16.

Officials noted that 84 patients in Jefferson County have recovered from COVID-19 and are no longer hospitalized.

No deaths in the county have been linked to the coronavirus.

A total of 11,857 patients have been tested for the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic through Monday, and 11,656 have tested negative, according to Jefferson County Public Health.

Test results are still pending for 78 people.

Through Monday, 58 COVID cases have been found in Port Townsend residents; 51 in mid-county residents; and 14 in south county (Quilcene, Brinnon, and West Jefferson).

Most of the confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Jefferson County have been found in men; 62 through Monday. Sixty-one women who live in the county have tested positive for COVID-19 through Nov. 16.