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A chart shows the rise in COVID cases that has come to Whatcom County since the middle of November. The rate is per a 14-day period.  (Courtesy visual/Whatcom County Health Department)

But latest stats show possibly a trend back down

WHATCOM ­— Compared to a goal of 25, the Whatcom County COVID-19 case rate stood at almost 10 times that target on Tuesday, Dec. 15. The number of new cases per 100,000 population in a 14-day period was 234.8.

Broken down by school districts, the rate varied from a high of 461 in the Nooksack Valley School District to a low of 89 in the Mount Baker area. Lynden and Ferndale were at (356) and (335), respectively.

Since mid-November in the county, and even earlier across the state, the COVID case rate has been on a dramatic rise.

The two-week reporting period was Nov. 22 through Dec. 5, so there is a lag in getting the latest pattern of infection activity.

There were 269 new cases of COVID in Whatcom County in the week through Dec. 3. In a promising sign, that new-cases count looked to be turning downward by Dec. 13, although the county’s latest numbers are incomplete.

Not so long ago, the two-week rate was consistently under 60, giving hope of hitting the 25 goal — which is also the standard being used by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association for playing high-risk sports including basketball and football.

If latest trends continue, the two-week rate could get under 200 and the one-week rate under 100.

For most of this year, the two-week rate has been the main way of measuring whether the coronavirus is being controlled. However, in recent weeks a one-week number has been used more frequently to get a grasp on a rapidly changing situation. 

The county one-week rate was 119.4 on Monday, possibly indicating a slowing of infection spread.

The latest case-rate numbers as of Tuesday evening, Dec. 15, were, by school district:

Nooksack Valley, 461

Lynden, 356

Ferndale, 335

Meridian, 297

Bellingham, 214

Blaine, 205

Mount Baker, 89  

As of Monday the county was hitting only one of four metrics for getting on top of the coronavirus. This success point was that fewer than 10% of all staffed acute-care beds (9.8%) were occupied by COVID-19 patients.

On the negative side: only 17.9% of such beds were open and available when the goal is 20%; the case rate is way too high; and the percentage of positive tests in a week was high.

The U.S.-Canada border continues closed to non-essential travel for another 30 days, into the new year. The latest, now 10th, extension was announced Dec. 11 by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, effective to Jan. 21, 2021.

The same rules of exception apply, allowing for certain workers to cross and for the transportation of goods across the border.

These are the overall  numbers for the pandemic upon Whatcom County, population 225,300, as of Dec. 13: 2,924 cases, 165 hospitalizations and 52 deaths. (The deaths number was reduced by at least one, from 53, due to an adjustment in the way the state counts deaths.)

The percent of deaths from confirmed cases is 1.8%.

There have now been 98,885 tests for COVID-19 administered in the county. In the week including Thanksgiving, the number of tests went way down to about 100, from a peak of 868 the previous week.

The county’s main testing site for the winter is now on the Northwest Washington Fairgrounds, drive-through in the southernmost portion of the Henry Jansen agricultural building. 

On Monday, Second District Congressman Rick Larsen visited there, along with County Executive Satpal Sidhu and Lynden Mayor Scott Korthuis, to see and discuss how local testing is going. Larsen also visited Skagit County’s testing site on its fairgrounds.