Whatcom sees 1,206 new COVID cases, 6 deaths reported, as 5 more classrooms go remote

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Whatcom County saw large increases in its COVID-19 cases, hospitalization and death counts Wednesday, Jan. 26, as the state reported 1,206 new cases along with 23 new hospitalizations and six deaths related to COVID added to its pandemic totals.

The increases represent two days’ worth of data, as the Washington State Department of Health COVID-19 Data Dashboard began this week limiting updates to Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

Additionally, the state reported that higher case rates in Wednesday’s data “do not represent a spike in COVID disease activity,” and are at least partially due to several factors, including the state’s new processor being able to process more cases and a backlog of positive tests results that was caused by system slowdown over the past several weeks during the omicron surge.

Whatcom’s pandemic total of cases now stands at 31,408, according to the dashboard. That total includes 27,837 confirmed cases (resulting from a positive molecular test) and 3,571 probable cases (resulting from a positive antigen test not confirmed by a molecular test).

The Whatcom County Health Department has previously said it expects case numbers are actually much higher, as most at-home test results are not reported. Test results can be reported to the county at https://bit.ly/3riktmf.

The state reported Whatcom’s weekly COVID-19 infection rate stands at a pandemic-high 1,678 cases per 100,000 residents for the most recently completed epidemiological data from Jan. 7-13, which is up from 1,121 one week earlier (Dec. 31-Jan. 6) and 11.5 times the 146 rate one month earlier (Dec. 7-13).

With 10,023 cases epidemiologically linked to January, The Bellingham Herald’s analysis shows at least one in 23 Whatcom County residents has tested positive for COVID during the first 25 days of 2022.

Whatcom’s latest COVID deaths

The six deaths reported Wednesday by the state brought the county’s pandemic total to 230, including 29 reported since Jan. 1.

Of the six deaths, three were for people who first tested positive for COVID in January (Jan. 5, Jan. 12 and Jan. 13), two were for people who tested positive in December (Dec. 15 and Dec. 31) and the last was somebody who first tested positive on Dec. 31, 2020, The Herald’s analysis of the state’s epidemiological data showed. Whatcom has now had 12 deaths epidemiologically linked to January and 25 to December.

Since Aug. 1, the beginning of the delta surge, there have been 117 epidemiological deaths, The Herald found, which is 51% of the county’s pandemic total. The county has seen 20 epidemiological deaths since Dec. 19, which was approximately when Whatcom began to see case counts climb steeply as the omicron variant took hold.

With 20,994 total cases (confirmed and probable combined) 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 0.7%.

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

Through data reported by the Whatcom County Health Department Jan. 18, 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. 21, 64% of Whatcom County’s 80 COVID-related deaths since Aug. 22, were in unvaccinated or partially vaccinated residents, The Herald’s analysis shows, including 68% of the 28 deaths since Dec. 19.

Other Whatcom numbers

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

1,223 COVID-related hospitalizations during the pandemic — up 23 from the last report.

St. Joseph hospital in Bellingham reported it was treating 61 patients with COVID-related symptoms on Thursday, Jan. 27, which was up two from its last report.

A weekly COVID-related hospitalization rate of 29.0 patients per 100,000 residents for the most recently completed epidemiological hospitalization data from Jan. 7-13 — the county’s pandemic high and up from 211 from a week earlier (Dec. 31-Jan. 6).

1.7% of the 3,825 total COVID cases in the county Jan. 7-13 resulted in hospitalization, The Herald’s analysis of state epidemiological data found, which was down from 1.9% of the 2,556 total cases a week earlier (Dec. 31-Jan. 6).

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.

354,606 vaccinations administered during the pandemic — up 738 from the last report. The state reports 70.5% of Whatcom County’s total population has initiated vaccination and 64.6% has completed it. The state also reports Whatcom has administered 75,734 “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 Thursday listed Whatcom’s level of transmission as “High” — the highest of four categories. All of the 39 counties in Washington state and all but four counties nationwide also were listed in the “High” transmission category.

Whatcom variant report

Omicron accounted for all eight of Whatcom County’s new confirmed variant cases reported in in the Department of Health’s latest SARA-CoV-2 Sequencing and Variants in Washington State report released Wednesday.

Whatcom County has now seen 287 confirmed omicron cases, according to the report, but the Whatcom County Health Department has previously said it expects almost all cases currently being seen in the county are omicron.

No new confirmed delta variant cases were reported in Whatcom in the past week, according to the report, leaving Whatcom’s total at 2,074.

Whatcom County has at least one case of seven of the eight “variants being monitored” by the state. But beyond the delta, omicron, alpha (476 total cases) and gamma (255 total cases), Whatcom has seen fewer than 50 cases of every other variant.

Whatcom’s 3,164 total variant cases represent 15% of the 20,442 cases in the county since the first variant was reported Feb. 23, 2021.

Statewide, the report said that 7% of all confirmed molecular COVID-19 cases were sequenced during the month of December 2021 and 64,525 specimens (8% of all confirmed cases) have been sequenced since January 2021, meaning variant counts are likely much higher.

Statewide, the Department of Health found there have been 10,622 vaccine “breakthrough” cases involving the delta variant, which represents 29% of the 36,378 confirmed delta variant cases in the state. There have been 2,420 omicron “breakthrough” cases, which represents 43% of the 5,587 confirmed cases in the state.

Also, the state reported that 4.1% of confirmed delta and 0.8% of confirmed omicron cases have resulted in hospitalization, while 1.2% of delta cases and 0.1% of omicron cases have resulted in death.

Whatcom long-term care update

Whatcom County had 81 new COVID-19 cases and three new COVID-related deaths associated with its long-term care facilities reported last week, according to the Washington State Department of Health’s latest COVID-19 Long-Term Care Report.

According to the report, which was released Wednesday and reflected data through Monday, Jan. 24, Whatcom County long-term care facilities have had 865 confirmed cases during the pandemic. The number of COVID-related deaths related to Whatcom’s long-term care facilities climbed to 85, according to the state’s data.

The 865 cases mean that long-term care facilities had 3% of the total cases reported in Whatcom County as of Jan. 24, while the 85 related deaths represented 38% of the county’s death total.

Statewide, long-term care facilities have been associated with 31,773 cases (3% of the state’s total cases) and 3,350 related deaths (32% of the state’s death total).

Whatcom schools COVID update

The Mount Baker School District announced Wednesday that five more classrooms had moved to remote learning for five days due to COVID.

Acme Elementary had already returned to remote learning for this week, but a letter from Superintendent Mary Sewright reported that four classrooms at Kendall Elementary and one at Harmony Elementary were also putting a pause on in-person learning.

“We are continuing to do everything we can to keep students in school and localize any need for remote learning as much as possible and on a temporary basis,” Sewright wrote.

Meanwhile, the Blaine School District, which last week announced that it was moving all schools to remote learning this week, posted on Facebook that it is planning to return to classroom learning on Monday, Jan. 31. In preparation for that, the district said if will be offering PCR testing on campus Thursday and Friday from 10:30 to 11 a.m.

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

Bellingham Public Schools has reported 531 COVID-19 cases in its schools since winter break, including 20 new cases listed Wednesday. Eleven of the new cases listed Wednesday had a possible exposure window of Jan. 18-21: three new cases at Bellingham High (13 total cases with the same exposure window), seven new cases at Birchwood Elementary (13 total cases) and one new case at Carl Cozier Elementary (four total cases). The other nine cases listed Wednesday had a possible exposure window of Jan. 24-28: two cases at Birchwood Elementary, one case at Carl Cozier Elementary, three cases at Happy Valley Elementary, one case at Lowell Elementary and two cases at Roosevelt Elementary.

Blaine School District reported 327 total COVID-19 cases in its schools since winter break, including 145 new cases with a possible exposure window of Jan. 17-23: 50 cases at Blaine Primary, 26 cases at Blaine Elementary, 45 cases at Blaine Middle School, 17 cases at Blaine High and seven cases among district staff.

Lynden School District reported 206 total COVID-19 cases in its schools since winter break and listed no new cases since Jan. 21.

Meridian School District reported 196 COVID-19 cases in its schools since winter break and listed no new cases since Jan. 21.

Mount Baker School District reported 11 COVID-19 cases in its schools since winter break and listed no new cases since Jan. 9.

Nooksack Valley School District reported 79 COVID-19 cases since returning from winter break and listed 12 new cases at Nooksack Elementary with a possible exposure window of Jan. 9-15, bringing the total at that school with the same exposure window to 12.

Ferndale School District reported that as of Thursday, 123 students or staff had a positive test reported to the Whatcom County Health Department in the past seven days — down 14 from the last report. Fifth-eight of those people were on a school campus during their infectious period.

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