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Health - Public Health News

Posted on: December 30, 2021

Whatcom County COVID-19 Update for 12/30/21

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. 

Updates

COVID-19 testing. We’ve gotten lots of questions about over-the-counter COVID-19 test availability. Testing is in high demand right now, in part because holiday travel plans have run headlong into weather- and holiday-related closures. These specific pressures will ease after the holidays. Additionally, regular shipments of test kits from the federal government will begin arriving in Whatcom County in January. What this means, unfortunately, is that right now, testing resources are tight. Here’s what you can do if you need a COVID-19 test:

  • 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. You can also email us at health_testingcovid19@co.whatcom.wa.us.
  • If you have symptoms, isolate at home until you’re able to get tested. 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.
  • If you aren’t having symptoms and you’re not a close contact, consider these other risk reduction strategies for holiday gatherings.
  • Please be patient and kind with testing staff and schedulers. They are doing their best under difficult circumstances.

Masks. We’re seeing a dramatic rise in cases, and from what we know so far, it appears that the new Omicron variant is considerably more transmissible than previous strains. We recommend that you use the best mask you can to protect yourself and those around you from COVID-19. 

  • KN95s, KF-94s, or 3-ply surgical masks offer better protection than a cloth mask.
  • If your mask has gaps and doesn’t fit snugly against your face, you can tie a knot in the ear loops where they touch your face or you can double mask.

New isolation and quarantine guidelines. This 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. 

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or you test positive, you need to isolate yourself away from others, preferably in a separate room if you live with people: 

  • Remain in isolation for 5 days. If you have no symptoms by day 5, you can end isolation, but you must wear a mask around other people for another 5 days. 
  • If you develop symptoms after your period of isolation ends, quarantine (guidance below) until you can confirm with a negative test result that your symptoms aren’t due to COVID-19. If the test result is positive, repeat these steps...
  • These guidelines apply to everyone, regardless of vaccination status.

If you’ve been exposed to someone who has COVID-19 and you don’t have any symptoms, you need to quarantine yourself away from other non-household members. 

  • Remain in quarantine for 5 days. If you develop symptoms, assume it’s COVID-19 until you’re able to confirm it isn’t with a negative COVID-19 test. If the test result is positive, follow isolation guidelines above. 
  • Wear a mask around others for 5 days after your quarantine period ends. 
  • This quarantine guidance applies to people who aren’t fully vaccinated AND to fully vaccinated people who are eligible for a booster but haven’t gotten one yet. 
  • If you’re fully vaccinated and you’ve gotten a booster, or you’re fully vaccinated and not yet eligible for a booster, then you don’t need to quarantine after a known exposure. Instead, you need to wear a mask around others for 10 days after the date of exposure.

COVID-19 data highlights (week of 12/19 - 12/24)

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 December 23, for the most accurate data. 

  • 557 new cases were reported in the week of 12/19 – 12/23.  including the highest daily case count reported since the beginning of the pandemic (166 cases on 12/23). 
  • The 14-day case rate was 394 per 100,000 people. 
  • Among the sub-county areas, the 7-day case rates range from 193 per 100,000 in the Mount Baker area to 407 per 100,000 in the Lynden area. The case rates in all areas increased during the current reporting period. The case rate for the Bellingham area experienced one of the most significant increases in the county, rising to 264 per 100,000. 
  • The 7-day case rates increased for all age groups, with all age groups younger than 44 above the county average. Cases in school-age children made up 18% of the total cases for the current reporting week.

Hospitalizations. There were 17 hospitalizations due to COVID-19 during this reporting week.  All were unvaccinated. 

According to the December 22 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 18 to 19 times higher for unvaccinated residents. For those 65 years and older, the hospitalization rate was 12 times higher among unvaccinated residents. 

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

  • One unvaccinated female, 60-69 years
  • One unvaccinated female, 70-79 years
  • Two unvaccinated males, 40-49 years
  • One unvaccinated male, 60-69 years
  • One unvaccinated male, 90-99 years
  • One vaccinated female, 60-69 years
  • One vaccinated female, 90-99 years

According to the December 22 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 December 27, 69.3% of all Whatcom County residents have started vaccination, 63.7% have finished, and about 29% of children between the ages of 5 and 11 have received at least one dose. As of December 25, 56,721 booster doses have been administered to Whatcom residents--an increase of about 10,000 from our last report. Thank you, vaccine providers, for working so diligently to help protect our community.

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. 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, pop-up clinics often happen at various locations around the county.

  • East Whatcom Regional Resource Center Clinic 
    1. When: Thursday, January 6, 3-7pm
    2. Where: 8251 Kendall Rd, Maple Falls
    3. Who: Everyone ages 5 and older.
    4. How: Appointments are recommended for those 12+ as walk-in capacity is limited. Walk-ins are welcome for 5-11 year olds. 

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 5-11 year-olds at VaccineLocator.doh.wa.gov. We’ll announce other vaccine opportunities for this age group as those opportunities become available.

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