Whatcom County Health Department officials say they are not considering greater restrictions if the county fails Phase 3 metrics, which the county currently meets.
Governor Jay Inslee said in a media conference that all counties would enter Phase 3 on May 18 but local governments could impose tighter Covid-19 restrictions if counties needed it. Whatcom County Health Department director Erika Lautenbach said in an email to The Northern Light that although Whatcom County health officer Dr. Greg Stern has the authority to keep Whatcom County in Phase 2, the health department has not “entertained” the decision.
Whatcom County must meet at least one metric to stay in Phase 3 – no more than 200 new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 in the past two weeks or no more than five Covid-19 hospitalizations per 100,000 people in the past week. Whatcom County was previously failing both metrics, but since May 10, is passing the number of Phase 3 hospitalizations.
“The rise in hospitalizations has decreased and the number of cases has been levelling off, and we anticipate the case rate will go down further as has been the case in other counties in our region,” Lautenbach said. “We also continue to make progress on vaccination rates. We take hospital rates, case rates and trends, as well as vaccination rates, into account when deciding whether or not rolling back a phase would be effective or needed.”
The majority of Covid-19 cases in Whatcom County come from people who are not fully vaccinated, according to the health department.
Zachary Doobovsky, Whatcom County Health Department public health nurse, said the health department currently aggregates unvaccinated and vaccinated Covid-19 case rates in two-week intervals. The health department considers people fully vaccinated after their final vaccine dose.
As of May 1, the case rate for unvaccinated people in Whatcom County was 289 cases per 100,000 people, while the case rate for vaccinated people was 19 per 100,000. Unvaccinated cases are not separated into people fully unvaccinated and people partially, Doobovsky said.
The health department tracks Covid-19 cases by asking people with Covid-19 their vaccination status when interviewing them. The health department will then verify breakthrough cases, which occur when someone fully vaccinated tests positive for Covid-19, in Washington State Immunization Information System and an internal system the health department uses, Doobovsky said
“Ultimately, it’s up to each of us to get ourselves vaccinated, if we haven’t yet, to help others who may have struggled to make an appointment, and then to help others get theirs,” said Jennifer Moon, Whatcom County Health Department public information officer, in an email to The Northern Light. “That may mean offering a ride, or helping to navigate online appointment processes, or having an open conversation with a friend or family member about their vaccination concerns.”
Whatcom County has had a total of 8,683 confirmed cases of Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic and 345 probable cases (9,028 total cases), according to May 16 Washington State Department of Health (DOH) data. Two people died from Covid-19 in the past week, which brought the county’s death toll to 95. The percent of deaths per total confirmed cases is 1.1 percent.
The Blaine school district increased in Covid-19 case rates, along with every school district except Bellingham and Ferndale. Blaine school district increased from 188 cases per 100,000 people last week to 210 cases per 100,000. The school district had 23 confirmed Covid-19 cases since last week. Lynden has the highest case rate at 741 cases per 100,000 people.
The county will receive at least 600 first doses of vaccine this week, although this number is not final and is likely to increase. Last week, Whatcom County received 8,860 first doses.
About 38.8 percent of county residents are fully vaccinated and 48.4 percent have received at least one vaccine dose, according to the department. The department reports 88,496 county residents are fully vaccinated and 110,468 residents have received their first shot.
Whatcom County is sixth in the state for its percent of population that is fully vaccinated, according to DOH data.
Statewide, 6,337,924 vaccine doses have been administered. About 37.5 percent of people in Washington are fully vaccinated and 47.2 percent have received one dose.
Washington state has had 391,188 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic and 32,862 probable cases (probable cases come from an antigen test). In all, 5,653 people in Washington with the virus have died as of May 17 and 23,370 have been hospitalized.
For more Whatcom County information, visit whatcomcounty.us/covidvaccine and whatcomcounty.us/coviddata. State information is available at bit.ly/3r2URJj. Vaccine locations can be found at bit.ly/3nZiMqr. For CDC data, visit bit.ly/39Kt4qh.