COVID-19 cases trend downward in county

Vaccination rates and efforts to reach underserved communities are growing.

COVID-related news for Island County continues to look promising as cases drop and vaccination rates soar above the state average.

Although the final data isn’t in yet, the county appears to be on track to remain in Phase 3 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Roadmap to Recovery” state reopening plan.

Efforts are also underway to reach underserved communities with the COVID-19 vaccine.

COVID Response Manager Don Mason presented an update to the board of county commissioners this week with the good news.

The rate of cases in Island County has been trending downwards, with a current case rate of 38.92 per 100,000 over a two-week period, which is well below what is needed for a county to remain in its current phase.

Mason also mentioned that Island County has had no deaths or hospitalizations this past week that have been related to COVID-19.

For a county to stay in Phase 3, it must keep a 14-day average of new COVID-19 cases below 200 per 100,000 residents and a seven-day average of new hospitalizations per 100,000 below five.

On Monday, April 12, each county will be individually evaluated.

“Our trends are in all the right directions,” Mason said.

As of Wednesday, April 7, there have been 1,500 total cases of COVID-19 recorded in the county since the beginning of the pandemic.

Vaccination rates in the county are also exceeding state averages.

By Tuesday, Mason said, nearly one-third of Island County residents were vaccinated against COVID-19 compared to about one-fifth of the state’s population.

As of Friday, April 2, the county had given out a total of 25,514 prime doses of the vaccine.

This past week alone, 6,870 prime doses were available county-wide.

The county is also making strides in reaching underserved populations with the vaccine.

An equity and inclusion committee, made up of eight volunteers, was recently created to help come up with solutions, although the group has not yet made any recommendations.

In addition, a public health “mobile strike team” is working in conjunction with Island County Human Services and community providers — including Island Senior Resources and Meals on Wheels — to identify home-bound individuals, those living in congregate settings and other vulnerable populations in need of a vaccine.

The county commissioners advised the COVID response team to do a trial period with 50 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which was chosen for its convenient one-time use.

“Johnson & Johnson seems like an excellent vaccine for the home-bound in that it only requires us to go once,” Mason said during a work session Wednesday.

He reported to the commissioners that half of the doses were administered to home-bound people. The other half were given to members of a congregate gathering organized by Pastor Fannie Dean at her church.

That gathering, Mason said, was made up of predominantly elderly individuals of various ethnic backgrounds who were experiencing some level of difficulty in getting a vaccine appointment.

However, some people in the congregate setting expressed that they didn’t want the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and preferred a different kind of the vaccine.

Noting that it might become an inequitable situation if people are only offered one kind of the COVID-19 vaccine, Mason asked the commissioners for permission to offer alternatives, such as Pfizer or Moderna.

The county commissioners agreed that giving people a choice in the vaccine they received would be a good idea.

Mason said there are 10 other congregate settings the strike team may be able to get to within the next two weeks, including the Haven, SPiN Cafe and Ryan’s House for Youth.

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