Whatcom sees big jump in confirmed omicron COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations grow by 23

·6 min read

Nearly one in six new omicron variant COVID-19 cases confirmed throughout Washington state last week was found in Whatcom County, according to a new report from the state.

Whatcom had 248 new confirmed omicron cases reported in the Department of Health’s latest SARA-CoV-2 Sequencing and Variants in Washington State report released Wednesday, Jan. 19. That was an 800% increase over Whatcom’s 31 omicron cases included in last week’s report, as Whatcom has had 279 confirmed cases.

Whatcom 248 new omicron also represents 14% of the 1,798 new omicron cases confirmed in the state last week, The Bellingham Herald’s analysis showed. The state has had a total of 3,384 confirmed omicron cases (a 113% increase from last week), according to the report.

While Whatcom’s omicron increase was substantial, it was not unexpected.

Whatcom County Co-Health Officer Dr. Amy Harley said during an online briefing Jan. 11 that the variant is likely having a large impact on the county’s recent high case counts.

“We know that virtually all the cases in Whatcom County are likely to be omicron right now,” Harley said during the briefing.

The state’s latest variant report also showed the other 41 variant cases confirmed in Whatcom County last week were delta — the only other “variant of concern” being monitored by the state. Whatcom has had 2,074 confirmed delta cases since the first case was reported July 6, The Herald’s analysis found. Those 2,074 cases represent 14% of the 15,163 total cases reported in the county since July 6.

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 3,156 total variant cases represent 17% of the 18,212 confirmed cases in the county since the first variant was reported Feb. 23.

Statewide, the report said that 6.1% of all confirmed molecular COVID-19 cases were sequenced during the month of December 2021 and 62,239 specimens (8.7% 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 10,592 vaccine “breakthrough” cases involving the delta variant, which represents 29% of the 36,288 confirmed delta variant cases in the state. There have been 1,595 omicron “breakthrough” cases, which represents 47% of the confirmed cases in the state.

Also, the state reported that 4% of confirmed delta and 0.4% of confirmed omicron cases have resulted in hospitalization, while 1.1% of delta cases and 0% of omicron cases have resulted in death.

Whatcom’s COVID-related hospitalizations

The state reported 23 new COVID-related hospitalizations Wednesday on the Washington State Department of Health COVID-19 Data Dashboard, pushing Whatcom County’s pandemic total to 1,184, including 168 since the Dec. 27 report.

The county’s weekly hospitalization rate stands at 22.8 COVID-related admissions per 100,000 residents for the most recently completed epidemiological data from Dec. 31 to Jan. 6. That is up from the 11.4 rate one week earlier (Dec. 24-30).

The Herald’s analysis found that 2.0% of the 2,545 total epidemiological cases between Dec. 31 and Jan. 6 resulted in hospitalization, which was down from 2.2% of the 1,176 epidemiological cases between Dec. 24 and Dec. 30.

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 71 COVID-related patients on Thursday, Jan. 20, which was down four from a day earlier.

Other Whatcom numbers

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

25,002 confirmed cases during the pandemic — up 356 from the last report.

2,825 additional probable COVID cases during the pandemic — up 32 from the last report — resulting from positive antigen tests not confirmed by a molecular test.

A weekly infection rate of 1,116 cases per 100,000 residents for the most recently completed epidemiological data Dec. 31 to Jan. 6 — up from 516 one week earlier (Dec. 24-30).

218 COVID-related deaths during the pandemic —unchanged from the last report.

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.

349,144 vaccinations administered during the pandemic — up 400 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 71,523 “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 99.5% 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 342 COVID-19 cases in its schools since the winter break, including 28 new cases listed Wednesday. Of those, 13 had a possible exposure window of Jan. 10-14: five new cases at Alderwood Elementary (10 total), two new cases at Bellingham High (28 total), two new cases at Geneva Elementary (seven total), one new case at Silver Beach Elementary (eight total), two new cases at Sunnyland Elementary (four total) and one new case at Wade King Elementary (two total). Fifteen cases had a possible exposure window of Jan. 18-21: one case at Alderwood Elementary, four cases at Bellingham High, one case at Carl Cozier Elementary, one case at Fairhaven Middle School, two cases at Kulshan Middle School and six cases at Whatcom Middle School.

Blaine School District reported 182 total COVID-19 cases in its schools since winter break and listed no new cases Wednesday.

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 reported 106 COVID-19 cases in its schools since winter break and listed no new cases Wednesday.

Mount Baker School District has reported one COVID-19 case in its schools since the return from winter break — one case with a possible exposure window of Jan. 3-9 was associated with Mount Baker High athletics. The district also reported seven other cases associated with Mount Baker High athletics from over winter break.

Nooksack Valley School District has reported 67 COVID-19 cases since returning from winter break, including 40 new cases reported Wednesday with a possible exposure window of Jan. 9-15: 10 cases at Nooksack Valley High, 13 cases at Nooksack Valley Middle School, two cases at Sumas Elementary, six cases at Nooksack Elementary and nine cases at Everson Elementary.

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.

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