St. Joseph hospital in Bellingham reported it was treating two fewer patients for symptoms related to COVID-19 on Tuesday, Oct. 19. The hospital reported it was treating 26 COVID patients, which was down from 28 on Sunday and Monday, Oct. 17-18 and 29 on Saturday, Oct. 16.
More COVID-19 booster shots may be on the way -- but when it’s your turn, you’ll get an extra dose of the original vaccine, not one updated to better match the extra-contagious delta variant.
And that has some experts wondering if the booster campaign is a bit of a missed opportunity to target delta and its likely descendants.
“Don’t we want to match the new strains that are most likely to circulate as closely as possible?” Dr. Cody Meissner of Tufts Medical Center, an adviser to the Food and Drug Administration, challenged Pfizer scientists recently.
“I don’t quite understand why this is not delta because that’s what we’re facing right now,” fellow adviser Dr. Patrick Moore of the University of Pittsburgh said last week as government experts debated whether it’s time for Moderna boosters. He wondered if such a switch would be particularly useful to block mild infection.
The simple answer: The FDA last month OK’d extra doses of Pfizer’s original recipe after studies showed it still works well enough against delta -- and those doses could be rolled out right away. Now the FDA is weighing evidence for boosters of the original Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
“It’s less churn and burn on the manufacturing” to only switch formulas when it’s really necessary, said FDA vaccine chief Dr. Peter Marks.
Shopping early for the holiday season is generally a good rule of thumb, but it may be more important this year as global supply breakdowns cause delays for Whatcom County retailers. Retailers interviewed for this article report that while they already have most of their holiday inventory — around 60% to 80% in some cases — getting those final few orders as well as replenishing things that sell out will be challenging this year. Bellingham residents can regularly look out on the bay to see one issue: This summer and fall there has usually been one or two huge container ships waiting for a chance to unload goods from Asia and Mexico at Seattle area ports. The COVID-19 pandemic has also done a number in other parts of the supply chain, including the manufacturing sector.
According to an article in Business Insider, the disruptions are expected to get worse before it gets better because there is no clear solution on working out all the kinks in the supply chain system. One of the weakest links, according to the article, is “an alarming shortage of truck drivers” that has left ports swamped with shipping containers.
The Washington State Department of Transportation has closed five rest areas north of Seattle along Interstate 5 because of excessive trash, vandalism and a staffing shortage. Rest areas closed Friday in both directions at Smokey Point between Marysville and Arlington and both directions at Custer, north of Bellingham, The Seattle Times reported. “We’ve seen broken toilets, broken sinks and stalls,” agency spokesperson Bart Treece, who noted maintenance crew members work in pairs for safety now, said. “Some people extend their stays and leave trash.”
The closures will last at least three months and will be reevaluated in 2022, the agency said.
There is high anticipation over whether Washington State University will allow its head football coach, the highest paid state employee, to bypass getting a coronavirus vaccine by qualifying for a religious exemption.
Among Coach Nick Rolovich’s 437 colleagues at WSU who have also sought a religious exemption, 22% have been successful as of Oct. 6, according to university records.
But they appear to be a small minority. At WSU and the state’s five other institutions of higher learning, the vaccination rate for employees as of midweek last week was high — ranging from 88% (at least partially vaccinated) on the low end at WSU to 98% on the high end at the University of Washington and The Evergreen State College.
Last week, Washington’s public universities rushed to reconcile the vaccination statuses of their workers, and got ready to cut ties with those who miss Monday’s deadline to comply with Gov. Jay Inslee’s vaccine mandate for government workers.
While there isn’t a statewide mandate for vaccination among public college students, all the schools — which issued their own mandates for students — reported at least half of those enrolled had verified their vaccination status. The deadlines for doing so vary, and the consequences for not doing so are less immediate; in several cases, such as at the UW, students who don’t verify by the college’s deadline will have a hold placed on their registration for winter term classes.
So far, at Western Washington University, 99% of students registered for in-person classes were vaccinated; at Central Washington University, 57% had verified their vaccination status; at UW and Eastern Washington University 80% of students; at Evergreen, around 93%. At Washington State University, overall vaccination numbers among students are unclear.
While most of Whatcom County has at least initiated COVID-19 vaccination, two regions are lagging behind. As of last week, 49% of the residents within the region covered by the Nooksack Valley School District and 45% of those living in the region covered by the Mount Baker School District had begun a vaccination cycle, according to data released by the Whatcom County Health Department Tuesday, Oct. 12. Elsewhere in the county, at least 50% of the population has started vaccination in each of the other five school district regions, the health department reported, with the Bellingham leading the way at 74%. Blaine, Ferndale and Meridian each have had more than 60% of their respective populations initiate vaccination.
So why have rates remained so low in the county’s eastern most reaches? “It seems to be a combination of access and individual decisions,” Whatcom County Health Department Communications Specialist Melissa Morin told The Bellingham Herald in an email.“ Access issues include transportation, language and cultural barriers, and work schedules that don’t mesh with clinic hours.”
Morin said the health department and its partners in those areas have been working hard with grass-root campaigns to increase vaccination rates.
Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated Whatcom County residents were more than three times more likely to contract COVID-19 during the first full week of October than those who were fully vaccinated, according to analysis of data released by the Whatcom County Health Department. Additionally, all three deaths reported during the week were in unvaccinated residents, according to the health department. During the week of Oct. 3-9, there were a total 407 COVID cases and 26 hospitalizations reported, according to the health department’s latest data report released Friday, Oct 15.
Of those, 284 cases (70%) and 20 hospitalizations (77%) were in unvaccinated or partially vaccinated residents, according to the health department. The three deaths among unvaccinated residents were in a woman in her 50s, a woman in her 80s and a man in his 60s, the health department reported.
La Niña will most likely be joining us for the winter again, according to federal forecasters.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center announced on Thursday that La Niña conditions have developed and are expected to continue, with an 87% chance that they will be in place from December to February.
La Niña (translated from Spanish as "little girl") is not a storm, but a climate pattern that occurs in the Pacific Ocean every few years and can impact weather around the world.
U.S. health advisers endorsed a booster of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine Friday, citing growing worry that Americans who got the single-dose shot aren’t as protected as those given two-dose brands.
Advisers to the Food and Drug Administration weighed J&J’s proposal for a flexible booster schedule. The company said the extra dose adds important protection as early as two months after initial vaccination -- but that it might work better if people wait until six months later.
Whatcom has the third-highest vaccination percentage among residents 12 and older, with 68.3% of its population fully vaccinated according to the report. The only counties with better percentages are Jefferson (74.9%) and King (78.6%). Seeing counties with high vaccination percentages also having higher breakthrough percentages is expected, according to the report.