Friends from either side of the U.S.-Canada border talk last week across the guardrail divider along Boundary Road north of Lynden. (Calvin Bratt/Lynden Tribune)

State says new COVID-19 infection is on runaway pace

WHATCOM ­— The international border with Canada will stay closed to non-essential travel another month at least, to Aug. 21, the two countries announced last week.

The ban on discretionary travel was first introduced in March and has been extended each month since. The latest extension was otherwise set to expire on July 21.
The agreement, as it stands, exempts the flow of trade and commerce as well as temporary foreign workers and vital health-care workers such as nurses who live and work on opposite sides of the border. Tourists and cross-border visits, even of family members, remain prohibited.
In Whatcom County, it means that informal gatherings along Boundary Road — family or friends talking across the ditch a few feet away from opposite sides of the border — will continue.
  These are other updates in COVID-related news:
  • The Lynden and Meridian school districts now have by far the highest rates of confirmed coronavirus cases in the county, at 647 and 697, respectively, the Whatcom County Health Department reports. The rate is per 100,000 residents.
There have been 131 actual cases in the Lynden area, and 75 in Meridian, out of the county total of 788.
The next highest rates, by school district, are 416 for Nooksack Valley and 413 for Ferndale, followed by 279 for Blaine, 277 for Bellingham and 217 for Mount Baker. 
Total hospitalizations in the county for COVID-19 have been 67.
  • Exactly 1,814 people were tested in the four days of drive-through testing offered at Civic Field on July 10-11 and 17-18. About 1% of test results came back positive.
Almost two-thirds of those tested said they were doing it for personal screening purposes only, not because they had symptoms or felt they had been exposed to the virus.
The county Health Department said it was taking the experience of the pilot effort and “working with Whatcom Unified Command to determine the best strategy for expanding testing capacity in Whatcom County.” More information was expected to be given later this week.
Getting tested is cost-free to everyone, with or without insurance.
  • COVID-19 is on a path to runaway growth in Washington, stated a press release put out by the state Coronavirus Response team on July 17.
The reproductive number (the estimated number of new people each COVID-19 patient will infect) is still well above one in both eastern and western Washington, except in Yakima County. The goal is a reproductive number below one, which would mean the number of people getting COVID-19 is declining.
These were other claims:
  ° The level of daily new cases is higher than the state’s previous peak in March.
  ° Recent growth in cases among 20- to 29-year-olds is spreading into all age groups. This includes low but increasing rates among children and teens.
  ° Hospitalization rates are rising throughout the state.
  • Gov. Jay Inslee announced on July 15 a rollback in the state’s Safe Start plan concerning gatherings for counties in Phase 3.
Gatherings in such counties are limited to no more than 10 people. The previous limit was 50 people.

Inslee also said he was prohibiting all live entertainment, both indoor and outdoor. For now, Inslee said, spiritual services, weddings and funerals will not be affected by the change.