Whatcom averages nearly 400 new COVID cases per day and adds a death over holiday weekend

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Whatcom County averaged nearly 400 new reported COVID-19 cases and more than five related hospitalizations per day over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.

Whatcom also saw another COVID-related death over the weekend.

With 1,587 new COVID cases reported on Tuesday, Jan. 18, on the Washington State Department of Health COVID-19 Data Dashboard, Whatcom County now has had 27,439 total cases during the pandemic.

Of the 1,587 cases, 1,279 were confirmed cases, resulting from a positive molecular test, and 308 were probable cases, resulting from a positive antigen test not confirmed by a molecular test. That brought the county’s pandemic totals to 24,646 confirmed cases and 2,793 probable cases, according to the state.

Though epidemiological data remains incomplete for Jan. 10-17, Whatcom County has seen 6,051 total cases (confirmed and probable combined) during the month of January, according to The Bellingham Herald’s analysis of state data, meaning at least one in 38 residents in the county has tested positive for COVID during the first 17 days of 2022.

Whatcom’s weekly infection rate also climbed to a record high for a 14th-straight day, as the county had 1,444 cases per 100,000 residents for the most recently completed epidemiological data from Jan. 3 to Jan. 9. That’s more than double the rate of 678 cases per 100,000 residents from one week earlier (Dec. 27-Jan. 2) and more than five times the 253 rate from two weeks earlier (Dec. 22-26).

For comparison, weekly case rates for the post-holiday surge in January 2021 peaked at 280 cases per 100,000 residents (Jan. 5-11), and for the delta surge late last summer rates peaked at 292 (Aug. 25-31).

Case counts and case rates potentially could be even higher, as county health officials said they believe the results of many at-home tests are not reported and therefore not included in that data and that some people have not been able to schedule testing. The state dashboard also said the Department of Health is experiencing “substantial slowdowns” in data systems due to the current surge in cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

The Whatcom County Health Department has asked residents to report their results from at-home tests at https://bit.ly/3riktmf.

Whatcom’s COVID-related hospitalizations

The state reported 21 new COVID-related hospitalizations over the three-day weekend, pushing Whatcom County’s pandemic total to 1,161, including 145 since the Dec. 27 report.

The county’s weekly hospitalization rate stands at a pandemic high of 25.0 COVID-related admissions per 100,000 residents for the most recently completed epidemiological data from Jan. 3-9. That is up from the 18.4 rate one week earlier (Dec. 27-Jan. 2).

The Herald’s analysis found that 1.7% of the 3,292 total epidemiological cases between Jan. 3 and Jan. 9 resulted in hospitalization, which was down from 2.7% of the 1,545 epidemiological cases between Dec. 27 and Jan. 2.

As of the Whatcom County Health Department’s latest COVID-19 Data Report released Friday, Jan. 14, 80% of Whatcom County’s 491 COVID-related hospitalizations since Aug. 22 were in unvaccinated or partially vaccinated residents, The Herald’s analysis shows.

St. Joseph hospital in Bellingham reported it was treating 75 COVID-related patients on Wednesday, Jan. 19, which was down four from the pandemic high 79 it reported on Tuesday.

Whatcom’s most recent death

The death reported by the state Tuesday brought the county’s pandemic total to 218, including 17 reported since Jan. 1.

The death reported Tuesday was for a person who first tested positive for COVID-19 on Dec. 19, The Herald’s analysis of the state’s epidemiological data found, bringing the county’s epidemiological death total for December to 22. There have been four deaths epidemiologically linked to January, so far.

Since Aug. 1, the beginning of the delta surge, there have been 106 epidemiological deaths, The Herald found, which is 49% of the county’s pandemic total.

With 17,022 total cases in the county since Aug. 1, Whatcom has seen 0.6% of cases during that time frame result in death, The Herald’s analysis showed. That is better than the county’s total pandemic death average of 0.8%, according to the state’s data, and the statewide 0.9% rate for the pandemic.

No other information about the person whose deaths were reported Tuesday, such as their age, gender, vaccination status or hometown, was reported.

Through data reported by the Whatcom County Health Department on Tuesday, 87% of the first 217 COVID-related deaths in the county were in residents 60 and older, including 104 deaths in residents 80 and older. Though the county has not seen any deaths of people younger than 30, the data shows, the deaths of five residents in their 30s and 13 residents in their 40s have been linked to COVID-19.

As of the Whatcom County Health Department’s latest COVID-19 Data Report released Friday, Jan. 14, 64% of Whatcom County’s 73 COVID-related deaths since Aug. 22, were in unvaccinated or partially vaccinated residents, The Herald’s analysis shows.

Other Whatcom numbers

The latest report on the state dashboard also shows Whatcom County has:

348,103 total tests (molecular and antigen combined). The state reported that an “unexpected delay” has once again pushed back the resumption of its reporting of testing data until approximately Feb. 28.

348,744 vaccinations administered during the pandemic — up 3,628 from the last report. The state reports 70.2% of Whatcom County’s total population has initiated vaccination and 64.4% has completed it. The state also reports Whatcom has administered 68,332 “additional doses,” which includes third doses for immunocompromised residents and booster doses, have been administered.

Additionally, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Data Tracker Wednesday listed Whatcom’s level of transmission as “High” — the highest of four categories. All of the 39 counties in Washington state and 99% of counties nationwide also were listed in the “High” transmission category.

Whatcom schools COVID update

The COVID-19 dashboards on Whatcom County school district websites showed:

Bellingham Public Schools has reported 314 COVID-19 cases in its schools since the winter break, including 83 new cases listed since Thursday, Jan. 13. Of those new cases, 15 had a possible exposure window of Jan. 3-7: two new cases at Bellingham High (12 total), three cases at Cordata Elementary, two new cases Kulshan Middle School (10 total), five new cases at Parkview Elementary (eight total), one new case at Roosevelt Elementary (five total), one new case at Sunnyland Elementary (two total) and one new case at Whatcom Middle School (nine total). Another 67 had a possible exposure window of Jan. 10-14: four new cases at Alderwood Elementary (five total), eight new cases at Bellingham High (26 total), two new cases at Birchwood Elementary (four total), one case at Cordata Elementary, three new cases at Fairhaven Middle School (18 total), two new cases at Geneva Elementary (five total), two new cases at Kulshan Middle School (three total), one new case at Lowell Elementary (eight total), two new cases at Northern Heights Elementary (three total), two cases at Parkview Elementary, four new cases at Roosevelt Elementary (six total), nine new cases at Sehome High (12 total), four new cases at Shuksan Elementary (eight total), two new cases at Silver Beach Elementary (seven total), 12 new cases at Squalicum High (22 total), four new cases at Whatcom Middle School (eight total) and five new cases at non-school sites (six total). There also was one case reported at Sunnyland Elementary with a possible exposure window of Jan. 18-21.

Blaine School District reported 182 total COVID-19 cases in its schools since winter break on Tuesday. Of those, 64 had a possible exposure window of Jan. 3-9: 13 cases at Blaine Primary, 14 cases at Blaine Elementary, 14 cases at Blaine Middle School, 19 cases at Blaine High and four cases among district staff. The other 118 cases had a possible exposure window of Jan. 10-16: 29 cases at Blaine Primary, 28 cases at Blaine Elementary, 26 cases at Blaine Middle School, 33 cases at Blaine High and two cases among district staff.

Lynden School District has reported 293 total COVID-19 cases in its schools this school year, but it hasn’t reported any cases since Dec. 17.

Meridian School District has reported 106 COVID-19 cases in its schools since the return from winter break, including 70 new cases reported Tuesday with a possible exposure window of Jan. 10-14: seven cases in the Meridian Parent Partnership Program, 21 cases at Irene Reither Elementary, 18 cases at Meridian Middle School and 24 Meridian High.

Mount Baker School District has reported 63 COVID-19 cases in its schools this school year, but it hasn’t reported any cases since the return from winter break.

Nooksack Valley School District has reported 27 COVID-19 cases since returning from winter break, but hasn’t reported any new cases since Jan. 8.

Ferndale School District reported that as of Wednesday, 93 students or staff had a positive test reported to the Whatcom County Health Department in the past seven days — up 39 from the last report and the highest it has reported this year. Sixty-two of those people were on a school campus during their infectious period.

Western Washington University reported that it had 273 students and 15 employees test positive for COVID-19 Jan. 10-16, as its totals for the winter quarter increased to 494 students and 48 employees. During the 2021-22 school year, the school reported 610 students and 61 employees have tested positive.

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