This new plan took effect Jan. 11, and unlike the state’s previous “Safe Start” plan, “Healthy Washington” consists of two phases instead of four, with the state divided into eight regions. Every region is now in Phase 1, and reopenings will happen by region rather than county. Additionally, regions do not have to apply to move forward to the next phase. The state Department of Health (DOH) will promote regions based on whether they hit four key metrics. The DOH will examine data every Friday to determine if each region can move forward on the following Monday.
The United States and Canada have extended the closure of the border to non-essential travel between the two countries until Feb. 21 in an continuing effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, according to tweets Tuesday from both sides of the border.
All essential travel, such as that for trade between the nations, will continue as usual.
Whatcom County set a new record for most new COVID-19 cases reported with 239 confirmed cases Monday, Jan. 11, by the Washington State Department of Health. The state did not report new related deaths or hospitalizations Monday.
While 239 is the most cases Whatcom has seen its overall reported caseload increase at once, it represents data from two days — an average of 119.5 per day — as the Department of Health does not release data on Sundays any longer. Whatcom’s single-day record for new cases reported still stands at 171 on Thursday, Jan. 7.
More than three weeks after the first vials of coronavirus vaccine arrived in Washington, the state has struggled to quickly vaccinate the most vulnerable people: long-term care residents and health care workers.
Some assisted-living facilities still don’t have vaccine appointments. Hospitals have scrambled to transfer vaccine to other hospitals that are short on doses. Many health care workers can’t find a site to get vaccinated. And the state Department of Health (DOH) can’t answer basic questions, like how many long-term care residents have been vaccinated or how much vaccine has been wasted.
As a pediatrician in Bellingham, Dr. James Bochsler has seen a number of people receive many different vaccinations over the years. But he said there is something different about the people he’s watched receive a COVID-19 vaccine in recent weeks.
“At the vaccine clinics we’ve set up, I see people getting the vaccine, and the smiles I’m seeing and the sense that something good is going to happen is really different from any other vaccine we’re giving,” the vice president and medical director for PeaceHealth Medical Group Northwest told The Bellingham Herald Friday, Jan. 8. “People really do seem to be pleased to be getting it.
“I think they know they’re better protected and their families are better protected, and that is something.”
Whatcom County has 68 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the Washington State Department of Health on Saturday, Jan. 9. Deaths are not reported on the weekend.
“Whatcom County has entered new, uncharted and dangerous COVID-19 territory. Since Dec. 30 cases have risen very rapidly, faster than ever before. There’s a high risk of the virus spreading even further as people return to work after the holidays. The Whatcom County Health Department advises immediate action to curb the rise in cases,” according to a health department Facebook post Saturday.
Bellingham Herald data shows Whatcom County has had 666 cases for Dec. 30-Jan. 7.
When Washington lawmakers finished their legislative session last spring, COVID-19 response dominated their work. Nearly a year later, the economic and social impacts of the virus once again will be center stage as the Legislature convenes for the first time in person in nearly a year.
Lawmakers are meeting amid concerns about potential efforts by armed groups to occupy the Capitol, which is currently closed to the public due to the pandemic.
While the storming of the Capitol is without parallel, similar incidents on a smaller scale have happened in state capitals recently, said Todd Donovan, professor of political science at Western Washington University. Protesters broke doors to enter the Oregon Capitol last week and occupied the Kansas statehouse Wednesday.
Washington state officials were preparing to restrict access to protesters who announced plans to enter and occupy the Legislative Building on Monday, the first day of the legislative session.
Wednesday’s actions are just part of a bigger unprecedented event, the weeks of challenge to the Nov. 3 election, Donovan said. They include President Donald Trump refusing to concede, filing what Donovan described as bogus lawsuits and challenging the Electoral College votes.
“At what point do you just not call this a coup, from the social science perspective?” he said.
Washington state residents opened their wallets in recent months to help Democrats flip two Senate seats in Georgia, contributing at least $7.3 million toward the party’s successful bid to take back the U.S. Senate.
The bulk of those individual donations — about $5.8 million — came in November and December, indicating that most Washington state donors were focused on helping Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock win this week’s runoff elections.