Skagit County is on par with the rest of the nation in vaccinating people against COVID-19, but the cases here have still been climbing as the weather has warmed and phase restrictions have eased.
There were 115 cases confirmed between April 12-19. There has been a steady increase in Monday-to-Monday counts over the past four weeks: 52, 56, 91 and now 115. Daily case numbers have been in double digits all but three days in April.
Island Hospital CEO Charles Hall said that while it takes three weeks of data to determine an acceleration curve, it appears that the early stages of a fourth wave of infections may have begun.
“We very much encourage getting the vaccine. It does two things: it protects me, and it protects you,” he said. The vaccine significantly reduces hospitalizations and deaths due to the virus, Hall said.
The hospital has given 7,168 first-and-second doses as of Monday. It plans to give 325 first doses and 300 second doses this week and focus on second doses next week. First doses will again be available May 3.
The county has continued to make progress in the vaccination campaign as allotments of Pfizer and Moderna doses come in. It announced Tuesday that it was on track to hit 100,000 first-and-second doses given.
Nearly 40% of Skagit County has received at least one dose of the vaccine, and just over 28% is fully vaccinated. That’s about the same as the national rate for first doses and slightly ahead for fully vaccinated, according to comparisons with national numbers on the Centers or Disease Control and Prevention website.
The Biden Administration announced Monday that everyone 16 and older is now eligible for a vaccine, 11 days earlier than planned, though only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for those under 18.
Island Hospital advises that even when appointments are filled, availability could open throughout the week due to cancellations.
Gov. Jay Inslee addressed the public last week about the potential fourth wave in infections, adding a new advisement in addition to wearing masks in public and getting vaccinated. He advised residents to take social gatherings and meetings outside to reduce risk of infection.
“We have knocked down this virus three times. But now we have to knock it down a fourth time,” he said. “Unfortunately, we are now experiencing a significant increase.”
Daily case numbers in the state were up by 300 from February, and more younger people have been hospitalized in the state, Inslee said.
Washington paused use of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine while the Food and Drug Administration and CDC investigate reports of rare cases of a blood clot in six people who received the vaccine. A second meeting on the issue is scheduled for Friday.
The CDC advises those who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in the last three weeks to seek medical care for severe headaches or abdominal pain, new neurological symptoms and shortness of breath.