But it must get down to 25 to be considered low, in containment

WHATCOM ­— The county’s all-important COVID-19 two-week case rate stood at 51 Tuesday using data through Oct. 18. That represented a drop from being close to 70 at the end of September, but still falls well short of the state goal of 25 for showing containment of the coronavirus.

Even the latest rate, posted by the Whatcom County Health Department, was based on data of Sept. 25 through Oct. 8. Ongoing but incomplete data through Oct. 18 show the rate dropping slightly to 48.4.

There were 115 confirmed new cases of COVID-19 in the county in the two-week span to Oct. 8.

The number of newly diagnosed cases over the previous 14 days per 100,000 people has become a key metric guiding decisions, and in Whatcom County the rate is also broken down geographically by school districts.

The localized rates, updated through Oct. 17, were: Ferndale 78, Lynden 74, Meridian 65, Blaine 57, Bellingham 44, Nooksack Valley 26, and Mount Baker 6.

Whatcom County was passing on three of the four metrics for being eligible to move up from Phase 2 to Phase 3 in Washington state’s Safe Start scheme. Although the infection rate was too high, scoring was passable in percent of positive tests over a week and hospital bed availability.

The Washington State Department of Health defines low disease activity as fewer than 25 cases per 100,000 people during the prior two weeks. A case rate from 25 to 75 is considered moderate while over 75 is high and prompting stronger curtailment action.

In mid-August the Whatcom case rate was down to 26.2. Then it began rising again.

The rise represents a third surge in the county, the first two peaks being in April and then July.

The latest reporting was that Whatcom County had only two people hospitalized with COVID.

From July onward, an average of more than 400 people have been tested per week, and the rate of positive tests has mostly stayed under 2%.

These were the latest overall disease numbers for Whatcom County, data through Oct. 18, posted Tuesday: 1,518 confirmed cases, 104 hospitalizations and 49 deaths. 

The percent of deaths from confirmed cases is 3.2%, and Whatcom County has now had 74,193 tests for COVID (a person may test more than once). The county population number used is 225,300.

As one sign of the importance of the case rate, it is now being used by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association as the hinge determining which high school sports can be played, and when. In sports rated high-contact, including basketball and football, competition cannot begin until the rate in a county is less than 25. 

Basketball is otherwise due to resume organized sports action on Dec. 28 under the WIAA’s guidelines, assuming all other requirements are met.


Whatcom infection rates, by school district (confirmed COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people in two weeks) 

Sept. 27-Oct. 10

Nooksack Valley, 72

Lynden, 64

Blaine, 51

Ferndale, 42

Bellingham, 33

Meridian, 19

Mount Baker, 0


Oct. 4-17

Ferndale, 78

Lynden, 74

Meridian, 65

Blaine, 57

Bellingham, 44

Nooksack Valley, 27

Mount Baker, 6


  •    County COVID-19 tesing is no longer available at Christ Fellowship Church in Everson. The church was set to begin some remodeling in early October.

Everson had been a spot on Wednesdays in the community-wide low-barrier testing offered since August by Whatcom Unified Command and the Whatcom County Health Department.

The testing continues to be available in Blaine (Tuesday mornings), Ferndale (Tuesday afternoons), Deming (Wednesday mornings), Lynden (two locations Friday), and Bellingham (Mondays and Saturdays). Appointments may be scheduled online at or by calling the Test Access Scheduling line 360-778-6075 between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.