Meanwhile, the spread is rapid in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties
WHATCOM — While the COVID-19 infection rate has spiked alarmingly elsewhere in Washington, it has held about steady in the high 40s for several weeks now locally.
After being just over 50 in mid-October, the rate was 49.3 as of Oct. 26 and 46.6 on Nov. 3. It then edged to 47.9 on Tuesday, Nov. 10, with data through Sunday.
The rate is the number of newly diagnosed coronavirus cases per 100,000 people over the preceding two weeks. It is a key metric being used by health professionals to measure whether the pandemic is being brought under control.
The state’s goal is 25, which has not been reached in Whatcom County. That number, 25, is also being used by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association as the trigger for allowing high-contact high school sports to start up, including basketball and wrestling this winter. Practice is supposed to begin in December.
Schools continue to move slowly toward more in-person instruction. Students will be returning to the Lynden High School and Lynden Middle School campuses in a hybrid model the week of Nov. 16, the district announced.
Hybrid, in Lynden’s case, means students of last names A-L are on campus Mondays and Wednesdays and students M-Z are there on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and everyone is in remote instruction on Fridays.
Whatcom County, in phase 2 of the state’s Safe Start program, on Tuesday, Nov. 10, was meeting two of the four metrics to qualify for moving up to Phase 3. (However, any advancing has been on a general pause since July.)
On the positive side, the county had less than 10% of licensed beds occupied by COVID patients (2.8%) and had a positive test rate over a week at less than 2% (1.2%). On the negative side was the new-cases rate of 47.9 and also a too-high rate of hospital beds occupied by all patients, 91% when it should be under 80%.
These were the latest overall disease numbers for Whatcom County, data through Nov. 8, posted Tuesday: 1,715 confirmed cases, 115 hospitalizations and 51 deaths. The population number used is 225,300.
There have been 86,031 tests in Whatcom County, and exactly 3% of confirmed cases have resulted in deaths.
These were the latest overall disease numbers for Washington state, data through Nov. 9, posted Tuesday: 120,011 confirmed cases, 9,092 hospitalizations and 2,482 deaths.
In other developments:
• On Oct. 30 the state recorded more than 1,000 new COVID cases on a single day for the first time since mid-July, and then the bad trend just took off.
The number was 1,454 on Wednesday, Nov. 4, and it hit a new record high of 1,777 on Saturday, Nov. 7.
“Specifically King, Snohomish and Pierce counties are hot zones for disease transmission, and they’re following a troubling nationwide trend,” the Washington State Department of Health said.
The third surge of the coronavirus pandemic is not coming — it’s here, health official say.
“COVID-19 is currently spreading very quickly in Washington state,” said Secretary of Health John Wiesman. “We are very concerned that disease transmission will only grow over the next few weeks with the holidays coming up. The threat to overwhelming not just our hospital systems, but our ability to do contact tracing, is real. We need everyone in Washington state to take action now to stop the spread.”
• With the holidays approach, these are recommendations:
° Limit in-person gatherings as much as possible. That means reducing the number of times you gather, how many people attend and how long you spend together. Gather outside if possible, or open windows and doors to maximize ventilation inside.
° Always wear a face covering when you’re around people you don’t live with. This includes close friends and family. “It may feel awkward to do this around people we know well and trust, but many people get COVID-19 from someone who doesn’t have symptoms yet. Even if you’re keeping some physical distance, it’s still a good idea to wear a face covering.”
° Talk to family and friends about alternate ways of celebrating the holidays so you can still enjoy spending time together virtually without putting each other at risk.
° Make a safety plan for in-person gatherings. Have a conversation with your family and friends about what you’re going to do to reduce risk.
° Stay home if you’re sick or have been exposed to COVID-19. If you’re feeling a little under the weather but aren’t sure if you’re getting sick, take the cautious approach and protect others by staying home.
° Keep up your good hygiene habits. Wash or sanitize your hands often and avoid touching your face.
• Whatcom County breaks down the COVID new-infections rate by county school districts. The goal is to get down to less than 25.
These are the numbers for the last three weekly reporting periods:
Nooksack Valley, 45
Mount Baker, 6
Nooksack Valley, 54
Mount Baker, 19
Oct. 25-Nov. 7
Nooksack Valley, 63
Mount Baker, 44