Local health officials urge residents to get vaccinated


Whatcom County Health Department and PeaceHealth officials urged Whatcom County residents to continue getting vaccinated to prevent already rising Covid-19 cases and hospitalization rates to continue in the county.

Whatcom County Health Department director Erika Lautenbach said during a May 11 media conference that the county is averaging 37 case rates per day, which she called “concerning.”

“We are teetering on the edge of moving back to Phase 2,” she said. Currently, Whatcom County is missing both the Phase 3 mark for case rates and hospitalizations. The county’s case rate is 213 cases per 100,000 people (200 is the maximum for Phase 3) and the hospitalization rate is 7.9 per 100,000 (5 is the maximum for Phase 3).

The state will re-evaluate phases on Tuesday, May 18 and phase changes would take place Friday, May 21, although governor Jay Inslee issued a two-week pause on counties moving through phases that will expire next week.

In the past six weeks, the number of Covid-19 cases for people 18-65 years old in counties in the North Region – Whatcom, Skagit, San Juan and Island – has doubled and the number of hospitalizations has tripled, Lautenbach said. Regionally, the median age for Covid-19 hospitalizations has decreased from 67 in January to 52 in April, she added.

Dr. Sudhakar Karlapudi, chief medical officer at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center, said earlier in the pandemic, the hospital saw patients aged 60 and over but now is primarily caring for patients between 40 and 60.

“Another important difference is patients are seriously sick, requiring ICU care. A large number of those admitted are requiring ventilator support and oxygen support,” he said. “We have also seen patients as young as their early 20s requiring to be hospitalized because of this disease.”

Karlapudi said this spring the hospital began asking patients if they had a Covid-19 vaccine.

“I can tell you with confidence so far all patients who have been admitted to St. Joes with Covid have not received their Covid vaccine yet,” Karlapudi said. “Essentially it proves to us that the Covid vaccine prevents people from getting the severe form of the disease.”

To help more people get vaccinated, the community vaccine center at Bellingham Technical College is now accepting walk-ins, although appointments are still recommended. The clinic, at 3028 Lindbergh Avenue, is open Tuesday and Thursday evenings and during the day Saturday. For more information, visit

According to the health department, other vaccine providers in Whatcom County offering walk-ins include PeaceHealth, Costco, Haggen on 12th Street in Bellingham, Haggen in Ferndale, Haggen on Meridian, Haggen on Woburn Street in Bellingham, Safeway in Bellingham and Walgreens locations.

Whatcom County has had a total of 8,522 confirmed cases of Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic and 333 probable cases (8,855 total cases), according to May 10 Washington State Department of Health (DOH) data. Two people died from Covid-19 in the past week, which brought the county’s death toll to 93. The percent of deaths per total confirmed cases is 1.1 percent.

The Blaine school district decreased in Covid-19 case rates, along with Ferndale, Bellingham and Mount Baker. Blaine school district decreased from 296 cases per 100,000 people last week to 188 cases per 100,000. The school district had 14 confirmed Covid-19 cases since last week. Lynden, Meridian and Nooksack Valley school districts increased in case rates.

The county should receive at least 1,870 first doses of vaccine this week, although this number is not final and is likely to increase. Last week, Whatcom County received 10,890 first

About 35.7 percent of county residents are fully vaccinated and 47 percent have received at least one vaccine dose, according to the department. The department reports 81,411 county residents are fully vaccinated and 107,130 residents have received their first shot.

Statewide, 5,960,719 vaccine doses have been administered. About 34.2 percent of people in Washington are fully vaccinated and 45.6 percent have received one dose.

Washington state has had 384,929 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic and 32,001 probable cases (probable cases come from an antigen test). In all, 5,593 people in Washington with the virus have died as of May 10 and 22,954 have been hospitalized.

For more Whatcom County information, visit whatcomcounty.us/covidvaccine, whatcomcounty.us/coviddata and vaccinatewhatcom.org. State information is available at bit.ly/3r2URJj. Vaccine locations can be found at bit.ly/3nZiMqr. For CDC data, visit bit.ly/39Kt4qh.


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