Whatcom County leaders anticipating rollbacks to phase 2

WHATCOM COUNTY, Wash. — While many counties in Washington state see a plateau of new COVID-19 reports, cases and hospitalizations are increasing rapidly in Whatcom County.

The county is reporting 227 new cases per 100,000 people. In order to stay in phase 3 of Washington’s reopening plan, cases must be below 200 per 100,000 people.

Additionally, hospitalizations are at 6.7 admissions per 100,000 people, which is higher than the phase 3 goal of being under five cases.

Given those numbers, county leaders said it’s increasingly likely that Whatcom will be rolled back to phase 2.

News of the possible rollbacks came as a huge disappointment to Bellingham businesses like Thousand Acre Cider House.

“We’ve never had a summer as a business where we’ve been open, so thinking that can be taken away from us, even for a period of time, is incredibly frustrating,” said owner Jenny Hagemann.

As much as she tries, Hagemann can never be quite sure that she’s actually “setting up” for success.

Thousand Acre Cider House had only been around for six months when the pandemic started, and Hagemann said she’s bore the brunt of COVID-19 restrictions.

At this point, I have no problem at all firmly stating that this industry has been hit the absolute hardest,” she told KIRO 7.

By this time next week, Hagemann will find out if Whatcom County will be rolled back to phase 2.

Nothing is set yet, but county health leaders aren’t painting a positive picture.

“Unlike some of the other counties in our region, we have not seen a leveling off or a reduction in cases. We continue to see high rates of cases,” said Erika Lautenbach, Whatcom County Health Department.

A drop in vaccinations isn’t helping.

More than most other places in Washington, an increasing number of vaccination appointments in Whatcom County are going unfilled.

“Our overall message to our community is the right time to get vaccinated is now,” Lautenbach said.

Until that happens, though, not even nice weather will be enough to keep some of Whatcom County’s businesses afloat.

“When I think of our goals, we haven’t even been able to scratch the service on the ideas that we have,” Hagemann noted.

KIRO 7 learned intensive care unit (ICU) beds were also nearly full in Whatcom County.

Health workers said it actually had little to do with COVID-19 and that people ended up in the ICU for other reasons.

They added that the ICU situation improved overnight, and now several beds are free.