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The original item was published from 9/17/2021 4:22:39 PM to 9/20/2021 8:06:23 AM.

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Health - Public Health News

Posted on: September 17, 2021

[ARCHIVED] Whatcom County COVID-19 Update for 9/17/21

With COVID-19 community transmission once again on the rise, we are publishing weekly COVID-19 updates. 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.

General updates

  • Our COVID-19 testing site at the Bellingham International Airport has added morning testing hours, 7:00 - 9:45 a.m., on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.
  • If you are using at-home rapid tests, please report positive results to the Health Department at 360-778-6190. Reporting positive results from at-home tests helps us track how and where the disease is spreading.
  • Governor Inslee announced that, as of September 13, facial coverings will be required for large outdoor events with 500 or more attendees.
  • President Biden has directed OSHA to require vaccinations at workplaces with 100 or more employees.

COVID-19 data highlights (week of 9/5 - 9/11)

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. Whatcom County continued to see elevated cases: 

  • 531 new cases were reported in the week. The 7-day average count for confirmed and probable cases was 75 per day.
  • The 14-day case rate was 506.6 per 100,000 people, or 1,155 total cases over 14 days. 
  • Although a plateau in case counts was observed during this reporting period, it remains unclear whether this is a pause in the upward trend or whether case counts are beginning to decline. 
  • The recent peak in cases is the highest level observed for Whatcom County and the case rate at the end of August was 16 times the rate observed at the beginning of July.
  • The case rate among children 0–17 climbed throughout the month of August and still remains above the county average. The 7-day case rates among residents 18–44 years old decreased during the current reporting week, while case rates for those 45 years and older held steady. 
  • Across sub-county areas, the 7-day case rates per 100,000 residents have held steady or shown downward trends in the recent reporting week. Currently, Lynden, Blaine, Ferndale, and Nooksack Valley areas still have case rates above the county average. 

Hospitalizations. During this reporting period, 37 Whatcom County residents were hospitalized because of COVID-19; four of them were fully vaccinated. This number includes people who have tested positive (using a PCR test) for COVID-19 and have been hospitalized due to their COVID-19 illness. It does not include people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are hospitalized for other reasons (ex: heart attack, injuries).

Deaths. During this reporting period, there were three deaths due to COVID-19. They were:

  • An unvaccinated female, 80-89 years
  • An unvaccinated male, 70-79 years
  • A vaccinated female, 90-99 years
  • A vaccinated male, 90-99 years
  • Another vaccinated male, 90-99 years

Please note that in Whatcom County, more than 75% of our 65 and older adults are fully vaccinated, so the death rate of vaccinated people is much lower than the death rate in unvaccinated adults of the same age, even though absolute numbers may appear similar at times. According to the Sept. 15 report from the Washington State Department of Health, unvaccinated individuals 65 and older are more than 8x likely to die of COVID-19 than vaccinated individuals 65 and older. (More explanation is planned for an upcoming report.)

Spotlight: COVID-19 hospitalizations by age group and vaccination status. While there has been a lot of discussion about breakthrough rates, this rate isn’t the most useful way to evaluate the risks of being infected with COVID-19, especially as more people get vaccinated. For example, if a population is 100% vaccinated, then any cases that occur will be breakthroughs. 

A more useful way to look at risk is to compare rates among vaccinated people with rates among unvaccinated people. We call this relative risk. As more people get vaccinated, the size of the vaccinated group will increase and the size of the unvaccinated group will decrease, but we will still be able to compare these groups’ risks of COVID-19 infection in a meaningful way.

To do this, the Whatcom County Health Department took a closer look at the COVID-19 hospitalizations that occurred since the delta variant became prevalent in Washington:

  • For people ages 12 – 49, unvaccinated people are 30 times more likely to be hospitalization than vaccinated people.
  • For people over 50, unvaccinated people are six times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 than vaccinated people.

Vaccination progress (week of 9/5 - 9/11)

Data. As of Sept. 13, 59% of all Whatcom County residents have been fully vaccinated. Nearly three quarters (74.1%) of everyone who’s eligible, which includes all residents 12 and older, has started vaccination. 

That’s great! But we need as many people vaccinated as possible to protect others who can’t get vaccinated, as well as those who may not get enough immunity from vaccination because of immune system deficiencies. 

Boosters. Today, the FDA’s advisory committee recommended against allowing booster doses of the Pfizer vaccines for everyone 16 years of age and older. They did recommend allowing the use of booster doses for people over the age of 65 and other people at greater risk of severe COVID-19 disease outcome. 

We don’t know any more additional details. For now, nothing changes. Other medical experts and agencies still need to review the data. We will provide updated information as it becomes available.

Pop-ups. You can get vaccinated for COVID-19 at most places you’d go for a flu vaccine, like grocery stores, pharmacies and healthcare clinics. In addition to these, there are a number of pop-up clinics happening all over the county next week:

  • East Whatcom Regional Resource Center
    • Tuesday, Sept. 21, 9am-noon
    • 8251 Kendall Rd, Maple Falls
    • Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson
    • COVID-19 testing is also available here (antigen, not for travel). Vaccine recipients will get a $25 gift card to local grocery stores. 
  • Bellingham Food Bank
    • Wednesday, Sept. 22, 10am-4pm
    • 1824 Ellis St, Bellingham
    • Vaccine brand TBD
  • A Watered Garden Family Learning Center
    • Thursday, Sept. 23, 2-8pm
    • 700 Strandell St, Everson
    • Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson
    • The first 30 people who get vaccinated will earn $25 gift cards for La Gloria Market!
  • PeaceHealth Cordata Clinic
    • Thursday, Sept. 23, 5:30-6:30pm
    • 4545 Cordata Pkwy, Bellingham
    • Pfizer
  • Whatcom County Health Department Vaccination Site
    • Friday, Sept. 24, 3-6pm
    • 7802 Silver Lake Rd, Maple Falls
    • Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson
    • People who get vaccinated earn a $15 food credit for Monolo Eats Mexican Food Truck!

COVID-19 vaccination continues to be the most effective preventive measure we can take against the virus. You’re much more likely to get really sick or infect someone else if you aren’t vaccinated. Find a provider near you at WhatcomCounty.US/CovidVaccine, or at VaccineLocator.doh.wa.gov.

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