County can process 2,400 COVID-19 tests per week

  WHATCOM — The Whatcom County Health Department again emphasized the importance of testing in its Monday, May 4, press briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic.

  The briefing came a few days after Gov. Jay Inslee announced that he would be extending his Stay Home, Stay Healthy order through at least May 31. Health Department director Erika Lautenbach said she and her colleagues understand the difficulties caused by the order, but they also stress its importance.

  Lautenbach noted twice as many reported COVID-19 cases in the week ended May 2 than in the week before.

  “This means the disease is still spreading and could spread more,” she said.

  The Health Department’s work continues as in recent weeks, with a focus on monitoring data, investigating and controlling clusters of the disease, and providing direction to workplaces for controling spread of the virus. Case and contact investigations also continue, Lautenbach said.

  The county’s testing capacity remains at about 2,400 samples per week, and Lautenbach reported no new outbreaks of COVID-19 in any Whatcom facilities.

  The county received 164 applicants for its new COVID-19 Employer Task Force, and Lautenbach said this high number shows people have a desire to be purposeful and engaged when it comes to restarting the local economy. Creation of the task force was expected to formally happen via a Whatcom County Council resolution at the council’s meeting Tuesday night, with task force meetings beginning this week or next.

  Lautenbach said it’s important that people not visit friends or family and that they get tested if they have any symptoms.

  Previously listed symptoms include: fever, cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing and sore throat. The Centers for Disease Control recently added more symptoms to be alert to, including: chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle aches, headache, and new loss of taste or smell.

  Testing can be done by a primary care provider or by the Health Department if a patient doesn’t have insurance or a primary care provider.

  Lautenbach briefly addressed the planned parade and rally that was scheduled to happen in Lynden on Saturday, May 9. She said she recognizes the hardship the stay-home order is causing, but said it’s important to remain vigilant.

  “Our county executive (Satpal) Sidhu has been in contact with mayors of all the cities,” Lautenbach said. “I’ve been in contact with executive Sidhu and our sheriff about that.”