With COVID-19 community transmission once again on the rise, we are publishing weekly COVID-19 updates. In these updates, we will include news and updates, summarize publicly-available COVID-19 and vaccination data, and provide some context and details to help you understand what’s happening with COVID-19 in our community.
Each update will cover data for the week ending the previous Saturday. You can find the weekly data report, plus additional data, on our data page at www.whatcomcounty.us/coviddata.
This update focuses on COVID-19 data through the previous Saturday. We have to wait for complete data from a variety of sources, so our data reports will always cover the previous week. You can find the weekly data report, plus additional data, on our data page.
Cases. Whatcom County continued to see elevated cases:
Hospitalizations. During this reporting period, 37 Whatcom County residents were hospitalized because of COVID-19; four of them were fully vaccinated. This number includes people who have tested positive (using a PCR test) for COVID-19 and have been hospitalized due to their COVID-19 illness. It does not include people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are hospitalized for other reasons (ex: heart attack, injuries).
Deaths. During this reporting period, there were five deaths due to COVID-19. They were:
Please note that in Whatcom County, more than 75% of our 65 and older adults are fully vaccinated, so the death rate of vaccinated people is much lower than the death rate in unvaccinated adults of the same age, even though absolute numbers may appear similar at times. According to the Sept. 15 report from the Washington State Department of Health, unvaccinated individuals 65 and older are more than 8x likely to die of COVID-19 than vaccinated individuals 65 and older. (More explanation is planned for an upcoming report.)
Spotlight: COVID-19 hospitalizations by age group and vaccination status. While there has been a lot of discussion about breakthrough rates, this rate isn’t the most useful way to evaluate the risks of being infected with COVID-19, especially as more people get vaccinated. For example, if a population is 100% vaccinated, then any cases that occur will be breakthroughs.
A more useful way to look at risk is to compare rates among vaccinated people with rates among unvaccinated people. We call this relative risk. As more people get vaccinated, the size of the vaccinated group will increase and the size of the unvaccinated group will decrease, but we will still be able to compare these groups’ risks of COVID-19 infection in a meaningful way.
To do this, the Whatcom County Health Department took a closer look at the COVID-19 hospitalizations that occurred since the delta variant became prevalent in Washington:
Data. As of Sept. 13, 59% of all Whatcom County residents have been fully vaccinated. Nearly three quarters (74.1%) of everyone who’s eligible, which includes all residents 12 and older, has started vaccination.
That’s great! But we need as many people vaccinated as possible to protect others who can’t get vaccinated, as well as those who may not get enough immunity from vaccination because of immune system deficiencies.
Boosters. Today, the FDA’s advisory committee recommended against allowing booster doses of the Pfizer vaccines for everyone 16 years of age and older. They did recommend allowing the use of booster doses for people over the age of 65 and other people at greater risk of severe COVID-19 disease outcome.
We don’t know any more additional details. For now, nothing changes. Other medical experts and agencies still need to review the data. We will provide updated information as it becomes available.
Pop-ups. You can get vaccinated for COVID-19 at most places you’d go for a flu vaccine, like grocery stores, pharmacies and healthcare clinics. In addition to these, there are a number of pop-up clinics happening all over the county next week:
COVID-19 vaccination continues to be the most effective preventive measure we can take against the virus. You’re much more likely to get really sick or infect someone else if you aren’t vaccinated. Find a provider near you at WhatcomCounty.US/CovidVaccine, or at VaccineLocator.doh.wa.gov.