Omicron makes gains in county

Projections show that as many as 100 county residents could die from the variant.

A recent report from an Island County public health official offered a harrowing perspective on the spread of the COVID-19 variant, Omicron.

Projections show that 40% of the state population may get Omicron and as many as 100 county residents could die from it, according to Don Mason, Island County’s COVID response manager.

Mason led a presentation Tuesday during the board of county commissioners meeting. He predicted that case rates will increase “dramatically” next week as a group of positive tests works its way through the lab system, which was hindered by the holidays.

The overall case rate in Island County was 241 per 100,000 for the two-week period ending Dec. 29.

Testing through the county has been showing at least 10 positive tests every day, Mason said, adding that transmission levels for the Omicron variant are already high.

“The thing I tell people is if you’ve been outside your home – you went to the grocery store, you went anywhere – in the last week, you’ve stood next to Omicron,” he said. “The question is, did you stand there long enough and will you be one of the asymptomatic vaccinated people that will carry it and be done with it and move on?”

The University of Washington forecasts that 40% of the state population will get Omicron in the next 30 days, regardless of vaccination status.

Mason pointed out that 40% of the county’s population equals 38,000 residents. Of those, about 14,000 are unvaccinated and are likely to have significantly more symptoms.

As much as 2% of people who contract Omicron are likely to experience serious cases. The current surge in COVID cases could bring the number of deaths in Island County to a total of 100. Mason said hospitalizations are expected to peak in mid-February.

“It is a bleak picture,” he said. “I wish I could give you a better picture, but that is a bleak picture.”

Commissioner Melanie Bacon said she was surprised to hear that the death toll could be so high when recent media hasn’t been reporting many deaths from Omicron.

Commissioner Jill Johnson suggested that the picture may not be as bleak as it seems, with vaccination rates continuing to increase.

As she pointed out, those who are unvaccinated have made their choices and will live with the consequences.

“I just have run out of sympathy for stupid. I don’t have it,” she said. “We’ve spent millions, trillions of dollars. You drive drunk, you go off the road, that’s your fault. You speed when it’s icy, that’s your fault. You don’t get vaccinated when we give you a health mechanism that makes this feel like a common cold, that’s your fault.”

An earlier version of this story said the projection from the UW showed that as much as 2% of the state population could die from the variant. It has been updated with the correct information.