County sends letter to Inslee on reopening plan

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Whatcom County Council, acting in their role as the health board, had harsh words for governor Jay Inslee in a letter regarding the pandemic recovery rules for small counties. Chair Barry Buchanan wrote, “We represent Whatcom County and wish to express our frustration and deep concern about the Roadmap to Recovery plan.”

In the letter dated February 2, Buchanan noted that county businesses and residents had been “suspended in limbo” since early June despite the fact that for the most part the county had not experienced high case rates and had successfully managed the medical needs of Covid-19 patients.

In particular, Buchanan objected to the fact that counties with far higher case rates were being allowed to re-open while the north region of which the county is part of had lower rates and wasn’t allowed the same consideration. “How is it fair or equitable that San Juan County, with a two-week case rate of 64/100,000 has businesses shuttered, but King County, with a two-week case rate of 300/100,000 is re-opening?”

Buchanan did not address how the board’s complaint pertained to Whatcom County given that at the time of the letter, Whatcom County had a two-week case rate of 407/100,000. “The new metrics cannot be justified with science, risk or equity,” Buchanan continued. “We insist on a re-opening strategy that considers case rates, not just decreases, that doesn’t artificially tie diverse counties into a failed regional approach, and that moves more quickly to safely re-open businesses. …It’s time to let counties with low case rates join in the Phase 2 reopening,” he concluded.

Frustration on a sparse vaccine supply was felt on the local level as representatives from the health department, Sea Mar, PeaceHealth, Family Care Network and Unity Care NW gave vaccine distribution updates during a town hall on February 4.

In the meeting, PeaceHealth said it had administered 6,303 vaccine shots to PeaceHealth healthcare workers; 3,508 of those in the first dose and 2,795 in the second dose. PeaceHealth also vaccinated over 1,200 county healthcare workers, first responders and others in Phase 1a. Starting February 8, it planned to give second doses to eligible people in the general public, to whom it had already given 2,000 first doses.

Sea Mar Community Health Center reported both its clinics in Bellingham and Everson were enrolled providers but only the Everson clinic had received 1,500 vaccine shipments. Both clinics applied to become Covid-19 vaccine providers at the same time but it took the Bellingham clinic an extra month to be approved. 

A Sea Mar representative also said first dose appointments would be walk in only and second dose appointments would be scheduled. Information is posted on the Sea Mar website as it becomes available.

Dr. Rodney Anderson, Family Care Network (FCN) president and CEO, said the clinics serve more than 25,000 patients and would prioritize vaccine distribution to them. But FCN had only received 1,400 vaccines, 900 of which were given to healthcare workers and first responders and 500 to patients.

FCN submitted applications for its clinics to become vaccine providers on December 6 but only nine clinics had been approved, while five were pending as of February 4. Anderson said FCN had the capacity to administer 3,000 doses weekly.

Unity Care NW’s Ferndale and Bellingham locations are enrolled providers, although the application submitted November 30 wasn’t accepted until January 15. Unity Care NW serves about 3,000 patients over the age of 65 and had ordered 3,550 doses to meet the demand but had only received 200 doses. Chief operations officer Shanon Hardie said Unity Care NW will contact patients for appointments. 

 

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