The new B.1.1.7 variant of COVID-19, commonly referred to as the “UK variant,” has been reported in Snohomish and Pierce counties. While this is certainly cause for concern, it is not cause for alarm.
Here’s what we know so far about the new variant and what it means for Whatcom County:
- Labs are regularly monitoring Whatcom County COVID-19 test results for evidence of this variant. It has not yet been found here.
- The new variant spreads more easily from person to person, but it does not appear to cause greater harm than the COVID-19 variant we’re long familiar with.
- Everything we’re already doing - wearing masks, washing hands and watching distance - protects against this variant too.
- The vaccines currently available are believed to be effective against this new variant.
Since this variant is more infectious, it’s possible we will see an increase of COVID-19 cases in Whatcom County if the variant appears here. That means our hospitals and healthcare staff could become overburdened. There are steps the community can and should take to prevent infection and limit the spread right now:
- Wear a mask or face covering whenever out in public.
- Wash your hands often.
- Watch your distance - stay six feet away from people you don’t live with at all times.
- Limit the size and frequency of your social gatherings.
- Stay home and away from others if you have symptoms of COVID-19, except to get medical care.
- Contact your healthcare provider or a community-based testing site to get tested if you develop symptoms.
- If public health calls or texts you, please answer. Follow their advice to protect yourself and those around you.
None of these steps are new, but all need to be followed more diligently. It is more important than ever that we all continue to consistently take steps that prevent the spread of the virus.
We’re continuing to test for evidence of this variant in Whatcom County and will immediately tell you if we find any.
Vaccines by the Numbers
Providers in Whatcom County are due to receive 1,700 first doses this week, bringing Whatcom County’s total allotment of first doses from the state to 13,500. As of Jan. 23, 11,796 doses have been given to Whatcom County residents. Data for doses given comes from the Washington Dept. of Health’s Data Dashboard and is based on the vaccine recipient’s county of residence.
Demand continues to far exceed supply in Whatcom County and statewide. All providers are struggling to schedule every eligible patient. Vaccinating everyone will take time. We encourage you to check your provider’s website for information about vaccine availability and to sign up for text, email, or patient portal updates. Avoid calling unless directed to by the provider. Providers are currently fielding thousands of calls regarding vaccines, and people with other urgent medical needs aren't always able to get through.
You can find a list of COVID-19 vaccine providers in Whatcom County at DOH’s website. Please understand all of these providers are dealing with high demand and low supply too. Check back often and contact these providers via their preferred contact method.
More information about the COVID-19 vaccine, vaccine planning, and vaccine safety can be found on the DOH’s COVID-19 vaccine web page at www.covidvaccinewa.org.
For information about the COVID-19 vaccination in Whatcom County, visit our webpage at www.whatcomcounty.us/covidvaccine.