Covid-19 cases increasing at alarming rate, health officials say

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Whatcom County Health Department officials are pleading for the public to take immediate precautions as Covid-19 numbers sky rocket to the highest they’ve been since the pandemic started.

Social gatherings were the source of 80 percent of Covid-19 transmissions during the week after Christmas, according to January 13 information from the health department.

“We’ve said it before and we’re saying it again,” Whatcom County Health Department director Erika Lautenbach said in a January 8 news release. “But this time much more urgently. Now, perhaps more than ever, the actions you take today can save your life and the lives of others. Cancel your plans this weekend.”

The health department said in the January 8 news release that since December 30, the number of Covid-19 cases has risen faster than ever before, and fears increased spread as people return to work after the holidays.

At 148, January 6 had the highest number of documented Covid-19 cases in the county since the pandemic started, a health department spokesperson said on January 13.

The health department reported twice as many confirmed Covid-19 cases in the week ending on January 8 than the previous week.

Whatcom County has had a 325 percent increase of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the past two weeks, according to a Covid-19 tracking tool produced by The New York Times. The data shows Washington state has had a 53 percent increase and the U.S. has had a 37 percent increase in confirmed cases of the past two weeks.

A county health department spokesperson said they could not yet comment on the increase of Covid-19 cases, but noted the time proximity to holiday gathering.

Whatcom County has had a daily average of 105 confirmed Covid-19 cases in the past seven days, according to The New York Times data.

As of January 11, Whatcom County has had 4,343 confirmed Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic and 56 virus-related deaths, according to Washington State Department of Health (DOH) data. In the past two weeks, there has been a rate of 207 confirmed cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 people in Whatcom County. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 229 people have been hospitalized from the virus in the county.

Two-week Covid-19 case rates in north Whatcom County have dramatically increased, with Nooksack Valley having a case rate more than triple last week’s number and Lynden having a case rate more than double the previous week.

Nooksack Valley school district had the highest rate of new cases, with 1,147 per 100,000 people. Lynden school district had the second highest rate of new cases at 850 per 100,000 people. Blaine school district had a rate of 250 cases per 100,000 during that time.

Washington has had 266,701 total confirmed cases of Covid-19. In the state, 3,789 people have died from the virus and 16,068 have been hospitalized.

Governor Jay Inslee issued a “Healthy Washington” two-phase reopening plan that grouped neighboring counties together by hospitalizations. No region in the state is currently eligible to move into phase two until at least Monday, January 18, according to a January 12 DOH press release. The new plan went into effect January 11 and phase statuses will be announced each Friday.

The health department advised people on January 13 to not gather with anyone outside their household. Lautenbach urged people to avoid gatherings, wear masks, wash hands frequently and stay home if they’re feeling ill or have been around others.

More information is available on the Washington State Department of Health’s Covid-19 dashboard.

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