Covid-19 cases are up locally, but hospitalizations remain low

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In the two-week period ending July 1, 183 people tested positive for the virus in Whatcom County – more than three times the state’s target for Whatcom County under the Safe Start plan. The majority of those new infections were people under 30, Whatcom County Health Department director Erika Lautenbach said, and few have required hospital treatment so far.

“What we’re seeing with cases is not a whole lot different from two weeks ago. We continue to see increased rates among people under 30,” Lautenbach said at a July 7 county council meeting. “In the last couple weeks in particular we’ve seen increased rates in people 19 and younger.”

The number of new infections increased throughout June, but the seven-day average for new confirmed cases fell from about 14 per day on June 27 to around seven per day by July 3, according to the county health department. The percent of test results coming back positive for the week ending July 1 was 2.7 percent, down from mid-June, when about 5 percent of all test results in Whatcom County came back positive.

Whatcom County remains in phase 2 of the state’s Safe Start plan, and, as of July 1, was meeting the state’s goals on two out of five metrics, according to data from the Washington State Department of Health; currently, 0.4 percent of licensed hospital beds in the county are occupied by people with Covid-19 cases, and 73.3 percent of total licensed beds are occupied. That’s well below the state’s target of 10 percent or less and 80 percent or less, respectively.

Whatcom County health officer Greg Stern said the county’s low number of hospitalizations is likely because most people getting infected in the past month are young. The disease hits older people hardest – 80 percent of people who have died from Covid-19 in Whatcom County were 80 and older, and about 90 percent of those hospitalized with Covid-19 were 40
and older.

Also, there’s a period of about three weeks between when someone gets infected and when they need hospital care, Stern said.

“I would anticipate hospitalization rates will go up just as they have in Texas, Arizona and Florida,” he told county council on July 7.

As of June 6, 667 people in Whatcom County have tested positive for Covid-19, and 41 with the disease have died, according to the county health department. Though the number of new infections increased throughout June, only one person with a confirmed case of Covid-19 has died since mid-May.

The county health department has linked most recent cases to parties and social gatherings, Lautenbach said at the July 7 council meeting.

In the next week, the health department plans to release additional data tools to provide more information on the number of outbreaks in the county, she said.

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