The new B.1.1.7 variant of COVID-19, commonly referred to as the “UK variant,” has been reported in Snohomish and Pierce counties. While this is cause for concern, it is not cause for alarm.
Here’s what we know so far about the new variant and what it means for Whatcom County:
There is no evidence of this variant yet in Whatcom County.
The new variant is more easily transmissible, which means that it can more easily spread from person to person, but it does not appear to cause greater harm than the COVID-19 variant we’re long familiar with.
Everything we’re already doing --wearing masks, washing hands and watching distance--works just as well in preventing transmission of this new variant.
The vaccines currently available will work against this new variant.
Since this variant is more transmissible, it’s possible we will see an increase of COVID-19 cases in Whatcom County if the variant appears here. That means our hospitals and health care staff could become overburdened. There are steps the community can and should take to prevent infection and limit the spread RIGHT NOW:
Wear a mask or face covering whenever out in public.
Wash your hands often.
Watch your distance--stay 6 feet away from people you don’t live with at all times.
Limit your social gatherings, in both size and frequency. Cancel them altogether, if possible.
Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 should stay home and away from others except to get medical care.
Contact your provider or a community-based testing site to get tested if you develop symptoms.
If public health calls or texts you, please answer or respond, and follow their advice to protect yourself and those around you.
These steps aren't new, but all need to be followed more diligently. It is more important than ever that we all continue to consistently take steps that prevent the spread of the virus.
Returning to Work
Whatcom County Health Department has updated its fact sheet, “When Can I Return to Work After COVID-19 Exposure?” It’s available as a PDF in English, Spanish, and Russian.
Vaccines by the Numbers
Providers in Whatcom County are due to receive 1,700 first doses this week, bringing Whatcom County’s total allotment of first doses from the state to 13,850. As of Jan. 25, providers in Whatcom County have administered 11,998 COVID-19 vaccines. Data for doses given comes from the Washington Dept. of Health’s Data Dashboard and is based on the location where vaccines were administered, which could include doses given to residents of other counties.
Demand continues to far exceed supply in Whatcom County and statewide. There are over 15,000 people in just the first tier of Phase 1A (there are two tiers, and far more people in the second), and more than 42,000 people in Phase 1B Tier 1. All providers are doing their best to schedule every eligible patient. Vaccinating everyone will take time.
Your health care provider’s web site. Avoid calling, as providers are currently fielding thousands of calls regarding vaccines, and people with other urgent medical needs aren't able to get through.
COVID-19 vaccine providers in Whatcom County. Please understand all of these providers are dealing with high demand and low supply.
If you or your employees aren’t currently eligible, find out when you will be on DOH’s COVID-19 vaccine allocation page.
Whatcom County Health Dept COVID vaccine web page
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