County Covid-19 testing resumes after air quality closures

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Due to poor air quality, the Whatcom County Health Department and Whatcom Unified Command (WUC) canceled Covid-19 testing at the Birch Bay testing site this week. The county closed four sites of its mobile testing program, which offers free low-barrier testing at six different locations in the county, in the past five days because of the smoke.

Whatcom County health officer Greg Stern recommended testing be postponed on those days to protect staff and individuals from the unhealthy air, according to a public health news flash on the health department’s website.

The county canceled all scheduled testing locations starting the afternoon of September 11  in Lynden through September 15. The health department posted news flashes each day testing was canceled to notify residents. Those with appointments were notified of the cancellation and will be given an opportunity to register for an appointment at a later date, according to the health department

Testing resumed Wednesday morning in Deming as scheduled.

As of September 16, 1,208 people in Whatcom County have tested positive for Covid-19 and 40 people have died from the virus, according to data from the Washington State Department of Health. A total of 94 people have been hospitalized because of the virus, with nine people hospitalized this month.

Those aged 20-39 make up the majority of confirmed cases with a total of 443 cases; 37 percent. Thirty-one of the individuals who have died from Covid-19 were 80 years old or over, making up the majority of deaths in the county. Seven people between 60 and 79 years old have died and one person between the ages of 40 and 59.

About 44 percent of new cases in the county have been connected to a known positive case, which could be a family member, coworker or friend, said health department director Erika Lautenbach in a September 15 county council committee of the whole meeting. Lautenbach said that percentage is about 56 among the younger population, which means they can identify about half the cases in their existing systems.

Twenty-one percent of people who tested positive reported participating in group activities, she said.

As of September 14, Whatcom County’s rate of new cases per 100,000 people in the past two weeks was 38.6.

That number has increased by eight cases in the past two weeks, straying from the state’s goal of 25 new cases per 100,000 people in a two-week period, which, before governor Jay Inslee paused reopening indefinitely on July 28, was a metric for counties to be able to apply for a
higher phase with fewer restrictions in his Safe Start Washington plan.

As of September 12, the Blaine school district has the second lowest rate of new cases in the past two weeks at 11 cases per 100,000 people, with a total of 69 cases, according to the county’s Covid-19 data.

For updates on future changes to the testing schedule, visit the health department’s website at whatcomcounty.us/covidtesting or its Facebook page.

 

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