COVID cases plateau in Island County
— Created May 12, 2021 by Kathy Reed
By Kathy Reed
Island County seems to be seeing the same trend in new COVID cases as the rest of the state – growth of the virus seems to be plateauing after it started creeping up last month.
“We have seen a steady rise in cases since the beginning of April,” said Keith Higman, health services director for Island County Public Health. “This week it appears that they are at a plateau.”
This is good news, because it means that unlike some other counties in the state, Island County does not appear to be in danger of losing its Phase 3 status in Gov. Inslee’s Healthy Washington: Roadmap to Recovery reopening plan.
“The state is using 200 cases [per] 100,000 people as a warning number. Our case rate is in the low 120’s,” explained Higman.
This leveling of new infections mirrors the trend the state’s Department of Health is seeing as well, according to a press release from Gov. Inslee’s office. Current data suggests the fourth wave is plateauing, even though case counts and hospitalizations remain high. The information was enough to prompt Inslee to pause the recovery plan last week, allowing counties with higher case rates to stay in their current phase for at least another week.
“We are at the intersection of progress and failure, and we cannot veer from the path of progress,” Inslee said at a press conference last week. “Our economy is beginning to show early signs of growth thanks to some of our great legislative victories and we know vaccines are the ticket to further reopening — if we adhere to public health until enough people are vaccinated.”
State officials believe increasing vaccination rates, shorter hospital stays and less severe illness are all contributing to the plateau.
Local health officials say Island County is doing well with vaccinations, although that demand, too, is leveling off.
“We have seen a slowing of vaccine uptake just like everyone else,” said Higman. “Our rates show over 51 percent of age-eligible members of our community have at least one shot. These numbers do not include NAS Whidbey individuals that got vaccinated inside the gate.”
“In the last two weeks we have seen a noticeable drop off in demand based on the number of vaccine appointments being booked each week,” agreed Conor O’Brien, marketing manager for WhidbeyHealth. “For example, our vaccine clinic is able to administer up to 180 doses each day and this past week, we’ve been averaging about 60-80 doses per day based on appointments.”
While WhidbeyHealth has mostly been giving doses of the Pfizer vaccine, Higman said there is an ample supply of Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines. Monday the Food and Drug Administration gave approval to Pfizer to vaccinate youth ages 12 and above; those 18 and older are eligible to get the Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines.
“WhidbeyHealth [has been] eagerly awaiting FDA approval to vaccinate those 12 years and older,” O’Brien said. “WhidbeyHealth’s vaccine clinic is requiring all persons under the age of 18 (unless considered an emancipated minor) to be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian for both vaccine appointments. With vaccine available widely in Island County, we are unsure what our appointment volume will look like when the FDA approval for ages 12 and older is made official, but we are ready for any appointment surge that may come.”
Island Drug has also tentatively set a mass vaccination clinic for those ages 12 and older for Saturday in Oak Harbor. Those interested are encouraged to check Island Drug’s website at islanddrug.com to schedule an appointment.
Health officials say it is still up to community members to continue to practice the now-familiar public health safety measures in order to keep COVID at bay and to achieve a slow return to normal activities. The best way to do that, they say, is to get vaccinated.
“WhidbeyHealth continues to strongly encourage those in our community who have yet to be vaccinated to sign up for an appointment (available now, with a link provided on the COVID-19 dashboard on our website: whidbeyhealth.org/covid-19), as well as to continue to mask, wash hands frequently and to socially distance,” said O’Brien.
“Until we reach a saturation point of vaccine in the general population, we each need to continue to mitigate the spread of COVID amongst unvaccinated people,” Higman said. “Do it to protect yourself, do it to protect everyone else.”