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Health - Public Health News

Posted on: January 21, 2022

Whatcom County COVID-19 Update for 1/21/22

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, www.whatcomcounty.us/coviddata.

Updates

Remember “flatten the curve?” Back at the beginning of the pandemic, we were all asked to flatten the curve so that our hospitals wouldn’t get overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases. Now the Omicron variant has driven our case numbers more than five times higher than any previous peak--and cases are still increasing. 

What we feared at the beginning of the pandemic is now a reality: our county’s only hospital is past 100% capacity.  We need to work together to keep our hospital functional and able to care for people with life-threatening and serious injuries and illness.

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We are so fortunate that the vaccines are keeping nearly all vaccinated people out of the hospital. Without them, the load on our hospital would be unimaginable. While 3 out of 4 Whatcom residents have gotten at least one dose of vaccine, there are still about 50,000 residents who haven’t. Contrary to what you might hear about other parts of the country, cases are still increasing in Whatcom.

How you can help. Please go to the emergency room only when you have a serious or life-threatening injury or illness. Don’t go to the ER if you’re looking for a COVID-19 test or if you have mild symptoms.

Please get vaccinated, or get boosted if you’re eligible. When you’re around others, wear a high-quality, well-fitting mask--preferably a KN95, KF94, or 3-ply surgical mask. And postpone social gatherings. 

Our health care system, our schools, and our essential infrastructure need your help to stay functional. Please do your part.

COVID-19 testing. Some good news about local testing: our testing partner, Northwest Laboratory, is now able to test more people! It should be easier for more people to get tested in a shorter time frame.

  • The new slots are limited to people with COVID-19 symptoms or who are close contacts of a confirmed case, and can be scheduled by calling 360-778-6075 (Monday through Friday except for holidays, 9 a.m. - 3 p.m., no voicemail).
  • Reminder: the ER is not a COVID-19 testing site. Do not go there if you are only looking for a test or have mild symptoms.
  • Please get tested through medical providers as much as possible. 
  • There are also several pharmacies (Sumas Drug, Nooksack Valley Drug, and Hoagland Pharmacy) who recently started offering rapid PCR testing. See our updated list of testing providers for details. 

Rapid tests. Lots of news this week, including how to get free tests!

  • Every home in the U.S. is eligible to order four free at-⁠home COVID-⁠19 tests. Orders will usually ship in 7-12 days. Order here: covidtests.gov or call 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489). 
  • Washington state residents can order four or five free at-home tests. (You will receive either one set of five tests or two sets of two tests.) The state has ordered 3.5 million tests that will come in over the next several week, so even though this week’s inventory has already sold out, more will come in every week. Order here: https://sayyescovidhometest.org or call 1-800-525-0127.
  • Buying a test from a pharmacy? If you have health insurance, most insurers will now reimburse you for up to 8 at-⁠home tests per month, for each person on your plan.
  • If you test positive, please report your result on our online form. This helps us track the spread of COVID-19 through the community.

COVID-19 data highlights (week of 1/9 - 1/15)

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. The weekly total of COVID-19 cases hit yet another record high. Keep in mind that these are only the cases that we know about; more residents are turning to at-home tests and most of these results are unreported. 

  • 3,476 new cases were reported in the week of 1/9 -1/15, with a new daily record of 711 cases. 
  • The 7-day case rate was 1,389 per 100,000 people, up 10% from the previous reporting week. 
  • Among the sub-county areas, the 7-day case rates increased, ranging from 965 per 100,000 in the Mt Baker area to 1,678 per 100,000 in the Ferndale area. 
  • The 7-day case rates increased or remained high for all age groups under 65, with the highest rate at 2,448 for ages 5-17. Cases in school-age children jumped to 25% of the total cases for the current reporting week.

Hospitalizations. There were 63 hospitalizations due to COVID-19 during this reporting week, about 50% more than the previous week’s total.  51, or 81%, were unvaccinated. 

According to the Jan. 19 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 5 to 8 times higher for unvaccinated residents. For those 65 years and older, the hospitalization rate was 7 times higher among unvaccinated residents. 

Deaths. Since our last data report, there were seven deaths due to COVID-19: 

  • Unvaccinated female, 80-89 years
  • Unvaccinated male, 60-69 years
  • Unvaccinated male, 80-89 years
  • Unvaccinated male, 100-109 years
  • Vaccinated female, 60-69 years
  • Vaccinated female, 70-79 years
  • Vaccinated male, 80-89 years 

According to the Jan. 19 DOH report mentioned above, unvaccinated individuals 65 and older are 13 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than vaccinated individuals 65 and older. 

Vaccination Progress and Clinics

Data. As of Jan. 15, 70% of all Whatcom County residents have started vaccination and 64% have finished. As of Jan. 9, 5,976 children between the ages of 5 and 11 (about 34% of that age group) have received at least one dose, and 70,738 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:

 

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

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