Coronavirus Skagit

Skagit County exceeds the state average for percentage of the population vaccinated for COVID-19, with more than a quarter of its residents successfully starting the process.

About 28% of county residents have had their first shot, versus about 24% statewide, according to state Department of Health data. Nearly 17% in the county are fully vaccinated, compared to 14% in the state.

“Our (providers) are working really well to get Skagit County vaccinated,” Polly Dubbel, county communicable disease manager, said Tuesday at a county Board of Health meeting.

While weekly vaccine deliveries from the state increased early this month due to the release of a stockpile of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Dubbel said the size of deliveries has begun to fall again.

She said county Public Health staff are hopeful this will be resolved in the next two to three weeks, and larger vaccine allotments start to become the norm again.

At the same time, the rate of new cases continues to fall, and Public Health Director Jennifer Johnson said the county is on track to fall below 100 per 100,000 residents over a 14-day period.

“I’m really happy to say we’re making progress,” Johnson said.

Keeping infection rates low will be crucial in staving off another spike in cases spurred by a highly contagious variant, said county Health Officer Howard Leibrand.

In the past two weeks, 5% to 10% of those tested showed they were likely infected with the U.K. variant, he said, with these cases primarily stemming from two or three outbreaks.

Because this variant spreads more easily, a fourth wave of COVID-19 could be coming unless the county is able to stay ahead of it, Leibrand said.

In addition to masking and social distancing, vaccinations are effective against the variant and will protect the population from exponential spread.

“We’re in a race here to get people vaccinated,” he said.

While Public Health staff have a chance to catch their breaths amid slowing case counts, county epidemiologist Lea Hamner analyzed the pandemic in 2020 and summarized its impact Tuesday in a report to the board.

Conclusions reinforce existing understandings of the pandemic’s impacts. Minority communities saw disproportionately high rates of infection, and the elderly were most at risk of severe illness or death.

In Skagit County, the rate of infection for Hispanic residents was about 4.5 times that of white residents, Hamner found.

The report states that while young people had the highest rates of infection, severe cases and deaths were significantly more common in older patients.

About 17% of the county’s cases in 2020 were in those over 60, but that same demographic saw 89% of the deaths and 54% of the hospitalizations. Meanwhile, no one under 40 died from COVID-19 in 2020.

— Reporter Brandon Stone: bstone@skagitpublishing.com, 360-416-2112, Twitter: @Brandon_SVH

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