Whatcom County will not be eligible to apply for Phase 3 of Washington State’s Safe Start reopening plan on Friday, June 26th. Friday marks three weeks since we moved into Phase 2. Unfortunately, we do not meet all of the eligibility requirements to move to Phase 3 at this time, and we will not be applying. Information about our county’s case numbers can be found on our Data Dashboard, and you can get info on key metrics can be found on the Washington State COVID-19 Risk Assessment Dashboard. Both of these dashboards are updated daily with the latest information.
Our main obstacle in moving to Phase 3 is that we must maintain a case count of no more than 25 cases per 100,000 residents in the past two weeks, which is the same as having no more than an average of four confirmed cases per day. Right now, our two week average is 28.9 confirmed cases per 100,000 residents. This number includes nearly 50 newly confirmed cases over the past four days*. We would need to have zero new confirmed cases between now July 2 in order to bring the two week average back down to meet this metric and move safely into Phase 3.
Our ability to move to Phase 3 also depends on the testing capacity in our county. The goal is to perform at least 50 tests for each positive test over the course of a week. This would result in a 2% positive testing rate. As of right now, Whatcom County has performed 47.7 tests for each positive test over the past week, or a 2.1% positive testing rate.
In order to move to Phase 3, we must increase the number of tests that are performed. We do have the capacity to increase testing in our county, with enough test kits and PPE to test anyone with symptoms. If you have any COVID-19 symptoms, please contact your healthcare provider to ask about getting tested.
We are meeting the Phase 3 requirements for healthcare system readiness. The number of licensed beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, as well as beds occupied by other patients, are well under the thresholds for those two requirements.
“It’s disappointing that our county is not in a position to be able to apply for Phase 3 this week,” said Erika Lautenbach, Director of the Whatcom County Health Department. “Since we moved into Phase 2 and started to reopen the economy, we’ve seen an increase in our confirmed cases, which has led to more spread throughout the County. We have the tools to bring our numbers back down though, like wearing masks, maintaining physical distance and staying home when we’re sick. I’m confident that we can significantly lower our numbers, and help our businesses reopen, if we all make decisions that will keep ourselves and each other safe and healthy.”
Our trends have consistently shown that our choices today will impact what happens in our county two weeks from now. We must continue to choose to do those things that will keep us and our community healthy. We are in this together.
*Note: According to a statement on June 22 from the Washington State Department of Health, “due to an issue that stalled data reporting starting Saturday night through Monday morning, both the DOH and the risk assessment dashboards have lower total tests and case counts today. The problem has been resolved, but cases and tests will be lower as the department works to account for the backlog. DOH will share an update once this is resolved.” Whatcom County Health Department has received data on tests ordered by the Health Department and from a limited number of healthcare providers. WCHD is reporting here based on the partial data we have received directly.