‘Counts higher than they have ever been’ — toward 450 in last two weeks

  WHATCOM — There were grim words from the county Health Department on Friday, Jan. 8:

  “The county has entered new, uncharted and dangerous COVID-19 territory. Since Dec. 30 cases have risen very rapidly, faster than ever before. There’s a high risk of the virus spreading even further as people return to work after the holidays. The Whatcom County Health Department advises immediate action to curb the rise in cases.”

  Charts show COVID-19 activity in Whatcom County heading toward more than 280 new cases in a seven-day reporting period and past 450 in 14 days.

  As of Jan. 10 there had been 495 confirmed or probable news cases in the county in the preceding two weeks.

  “The virus is more active in Whatcom County now than at any time in the past, including spring last year. The rise in cases is consistent across all age groups. After preliminary and ongoing review of case investigations, it appears that the majority of transmission continues to occur in households and at social gatherings,” the department said on Friday.

  Erika Lautenbach, director of the Whatcom County Health Department, said it’s imperative for Whatcom County residents to double-down on known preventive measures.

  “The steps we need to take are familiar by now,” Lautenbach said, “and if we all act immediately, we can stop this viral surge in its tracks.”

  These measures, Lautenbach said, include:

  • wearing a mask whenever around others who aren’t from the same household.

  • avoiding social gatherings.

  • washing or sanitizing hands frequently.

  • staying home when experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or after spending any time around others with symptoms.

  Anyone experiencing symptoms such as a fever, cough or shortness of breath should get tested immediately and stay home from work or school.  

  “We’ve said it before and we’re saying it again,” Lautenbach said, “but this time much more urgently. Now, perhaps more than ever, the actions you take  can save your life and the lives of others. Cancel your plans this weekend.”

  Not since August has the Whatcom infection rate been close to the goal of 25 or less, and not since June has the goal been met.

  The latest infection rates by school district, as announced Tuesday, Jan. 5, were: 

Lynden, 390 (up 98)

Nooksack Valley, 325 (down 63)

Meridian, 325 (up 102)

Ferndale, 200 (up 6)

Mount Baker, 177 (down 13)

Bellingham, 147 (down 9)

Blaine, 108 (down 17)

  Effective Dec. 16, state and county data dashboard reporting of COVID-19 now includes both probable and confirmed cases, using both the antigen test and the molecular test. “Molecular tests take more time than antigen tests to perform, but they are generally more accurate than antigen tests,” the county website explains.

  Whatcom’s confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic now stand at 4,361, deaths are 56 and hospitalizations are 212. More than 133,000 molecular tests have been given.