News Flash

Health - Public Health News

Posted on: April 14, 2020

Whatcom County Health Department briefs press on COVID-19 model

One of public health’s core functions is to lead community-wide planning and response efforts during public health emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic. Our decision-making is based on science and the best available data. We collect, synthesize and analyze data about a disease outbreak and develop forecasting tools that guide our assessment and planning for the resources we need to respond. 

Yesterday, we shared details at a press conference about a modeling tool that provides a better picture of how COVID-19 has spread in Whatcom County and several scenarios of what it might look like as restrictions are eased. Visit this link to listen to the media briefing from Monday, April 13, and visit this link to view the full report.

  • The model doesn’t tell us what will happen. It shows several possibilities of what could happen after May 4, when the current Stay Home, Stay Healthy order for Washington is set to end.
  • The model is a way to see how the choices we make today could influence our future. Interventions may change locally, regionally or nationally, and the model’s scenarios will be updated to reflect changes as they occur. 
  • How well we follow recommended interventions also impacts the possible scenarios and our future. We all contribute to shaping the burden of, and recovery from, the COVID-19 outbreak.



This image shows without further measures to control the spread of the virus, we could see a second wave of infections that would peak later in the summer. What you see in this chart is the cumulative number of people infected with COVID-19 for high, medium, low, and lowest scenarios.The model predicts that continued social distancing (blue line) would mean that for every 10 infected people, only 8 others are infected. In the high scenario, for every 10 infected people, 20 more would be infected, and as you can see, the number of total cases would jump back up dramatically. This is even if we maintain all mitigation measures for another three weeks, until May 4.

Our model shows that the number of people infected with COVID-19 in Whatcom County has likely reached a first peak. Good job Whatcom County! Our community’s efforts have been working, and now is the time to stay the course to have the best possible outcomes. 

The Health Department, together with Whatcom Unified Command, will be continually using the information from this model and the simulations to guide our ongoing response. The model provides critical information to inform our planning to prevent and reduce the spread of COVID-19 within Whatcom County. It helps us to:

  • Plan how and when to ramp up the facilities, equipment and personnel needed if we have a second wave of infections.
  • Strategize to keep the rate of disease spread low even after we lift social distancing restrictions.
  • Understand that returning to life as normal will have to be done gradually, like turning a dial instead of flipping a switch.

We need to continue our efforts to keep our neighbors and loved ones healthy! What we see is promising, but we aren’t out of the woods yet.  Each action you take is one that can protect others, especially the people who are most vulnerable to getting very sick.

We know how difficult it is to stay home. It’s spring in the Pacific Northwest, and the sun is shining. We all want to be able to go about our lives, but it is vital that we continue to follow guidelines to only go out for essential trips, limit our interactions with people we don’t live with, and exercise in our own neighborhood as much as possible. Encourage your loved ones to do the same. 

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