In these updates, we will include news and updates, summarize publicly-available COVID-19 and vaccination data, and provide some context and details to help you understand what’s happening with COVID-19 in our community.
Each update will cover data for the week ending the previous Saturday. You can find the weekly data report, plus additional data, on our data page at www.whatcomcounty.us/coviddata. Due to staffing changes, video updates are on hold; we hope to resume them in early February.
Omicron surge leading to record COVID-19 cases. The Omicron surge is driving record numbers of cases, with no signs of leveling off:
- There is already a preliminary total of 962 COVID-19 cases this week (Sunday through Wednesday), and the Health Department expects these numbers to increase as more data comes in.
- This week’s cases are on track to exceed last week’s weekly total of 1384 cases, which was more than double the previous weekly record of 652 cases set at the end of Aug. 2021.
- A pandemic daily record of 423 cases were reported on Jan. 3, 2022, which is 36% higher than the previous record of 311 cases set on Dec. 29, 2021.
- Case rates in all age groups and all county sub-areas are rising.
- Our local hospital has broken its record number of COVID-positive patients multiple times in the past week.
- From Dec. 5 through Jan. 1, representing four weeks of complete data that cover the beginning of the Omicron surge, 85.9% of hospitalized patients were unvaccinated.
“Even though the Omicron variant is more transmissible than previous variants, the vaccines still protect against severe disease and are a crucial tool in keeping people from needing to go to the hospital,” says Dr. Greg Thompson, Whatcom County co-health officer. “If you’ve been waiting, now is the time to get vaccinated and get boosted. Booster shots give you the greatest amount of protection against Omicron infections, but even those first two doses can reduce severe COVID-19 and hospitalization by over 80 percent.”
Take a multi-layered approach to stop the spread. Besides getting vaccinated and boosted, please also wear a well-fitting, high-quality mask, such as a KN95, KF-94, or three-ply surgical mask. Avoid large crowds, and cancel social gatherings.
COVID-19 testing. Testing continues to be in high demand right now. Appointments at the community testing site are fully booked out for several days, and it’s challenging to find rapid at-home tests. Here’s what you can do if you need a COVID-19 test:
- If you have symptoms, assume you have COVID-19 and isolate at home. Follow the new isolation guidelines (see below). Don’t gather or visit with other people. Even if it isn’t COVID-19, you don’t want to make your friends or family sick. The flu is also going around.
- For most workplaces, you do not need a negative test before returning to work after having COVID-19. Workplaces such as schools, health care facilities, congregate living settings, and others may have other isolation and quarantine guidance.
- If you’re having COVID-19 symptoms or you’ve been told you were in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, call us at 360-778-6075 (Monday through Friday except for holidays, 9 a.m. - 3 p.m., no voicemail). We’ll help schedule a PCR test for you, but be aware that you may not get an appointment until after your 5-day isolation period is over due to testing demand. You can also email us at [email protected].
Boosters now recommended for everyone 12 and older. The CDC and DOH have recommended that everyone get a booster dose:
- Five months after completing the Pfizer primary vaccination series,
- Six months after completing the Moderna primary vaccination series, or
- Two months after receiving the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
New isolation and quarantine guidelines. Last week, the CDC and the Washington State Department of Health announced changes to isolation and quarantine guidelines. In a nutshell, if and only if you don’t have symptoms, both isolation and quarantine periods now end after 5 days instead of 10, with 5 days of strict mask wearing around others afterwards. For more details, see our exposure and illness page or download our PDF summary of the new guidelines.
COVID-19 data highlights (week of 12/25 - 1/1)
This update focuses on COVID-19 data through the previous Saturday. We have to wait for complete data from a variety of sources, so our data reports will always cover the previous week. You can find the weekly data report, plus additional data, on our data page.
Cases. COVID-19 cases have risen sharply. The current report includes specimens collected through Jan. 1, for the most accurate data.
- 1,384 new cases were reported in the week of 12/25 -1/1. This included the five highest daily case counts of the pandemic. There was a new record-high daily case count (311 cases on 12/27, breaking the previous record of 166 cases on 12/23).
- The 7-day case rate was 589 per 100,000 people.
- Among the sub-county areas, the 7-day case rates all rose sharply, ranging from 509 per 100,000 in the Bellingham area to 769 per 100,000 in the Ferndale area. The case rates for 5- to 17-year-olds in Bellingham and Ferndale were record highs for those areas.
- The 7-day case rates rapidly increased for all age groups, with all age groups between 5 and 44 above the county average. Cases in school-age children made up 15% of the total cases for the current reporting week.
Hospitalizations. There were 21 hospitalizations due to COVID-19 during this reporting week. 15 patients, or 71%, were unvaccinated.
According to the Jan. 5 DOH report on COVID-19 Cases, Hospitalizations, and Deaths by Vaccination Status, hospitalization rates are many times higher among unvaccinated residents. For Washington residents 12 – 64 years old, the hospitalization rate per 100,000 is 10 to 14 times higher for unvaccinated residents. For those 65 years and older, the hospitalization rate was 13 times higher among unvaccinated residents.
Deaths. Since our last data report, there were seven deaths due to COVID-19:
- One unvaccinated male, 40-49 years
- One unvaccinated male, 50-59 years
- One unvaccinated male, 60-69 years
- Two unvaccinated males, 70-79 years
- One unvaccinated female, 70-79 years
- One vaccinated female, 100-109 years
According to the Jan. 5 DOH report mentioned above, unvaccinated individuals 65 and older are 15 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than vaccinated individuals 65 and older.
Vaccination Progress and Clinics
Data. As of Jan. 1, 69.5% of all Whatcom County residents have started vaccination and 63.8% have finished. As of Jan. 2, about 30% of children between the ages of 5 and 11 have received at least one dose, and 58,953 booster doses have been administered to Whatcom residents.
Pop-ups. Adolescents, teens and adults can get vaccinated for COVID-19 at most places you’d go for a flu vaccine, like grocery stores, pharmacies and health care clinics. In addition to these, there’s a number of pop-up clinics offering COVID-19 vaccines, some of which offer vaccines to 5- to 11-year-olds.
A more complete list of vaccine providers in Whatcom County can be found at VaccineLocator.doh.wa.gov.
Upcoming pop-up clinics:
Rite-Aid Pharmacy, 222 Telegraph Rd, Bellingham
- Saturday, Jan. 8, 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.
- Ages served: 5 and older.
- Walk-ins only.
Everson Elementary, 216 Everson Goshen Rd, Everson
Mt Baker Junior High/Senior High School, 5100 Mitchell Rd, Deming
East Whatcom Regional Resource Center, 8251 Kendall Rd, Maple Falls
Other clinics may be announced during the week. For an updated list, please visit whatcomcounty.us/covidvaccine.
Pediatric vaccination opportunities. In addition to many of the clinics listed above, we maintain an up-to-date list of local pediatric vaccine providers on our vaccine page. You can also find vaccine providers that serve 5- to 11-year-olds at VaccineLocator.doh.wa.gov.