Apr. 19—The numbers of new COVID-19 cases per day in Skagit County remain high, but they may be leveling off.
The county is regularly reporting more than 20 new cases per day, numbers reminiscent of those seen during the third wave of infections last winter.
While high, county Health Officer Howard Leibrand said the numbers aren't the kind of exponential growth that worries him.
"I'm optimistic, because they're not rising rapidly," he said.
He said 80% to 90% of current cases are one of the new, more easily-transmissible COVID-19 variants, meaning those variants spread more easily.
"I think actually we're doing well, given the situation we're in," Leibrand said.
As of Sunday, Skagit County was reporting about 149 new cases per 100,000 residents for a 14-day period, according to state data. That is approaching the threshold of 200 per 100,000 as outlined in Gov. Jay Inslee's Healthy Washington plan.
If this rate of infection persists, the county will not meet this goal, and risks being sent back a phase in the state reopening plan, requiring restaurants, gyms and other businesses to reduce capacity once again, Leibrand said.
Severe cases are also increasing, with seven county residents hospitalized over the past week, according to state data.
Under the Healthy Washington plan, counties are also expected to have five or fewer hospitalizations per 100,000 residents in the prior week.
Counties in Phase 3 must meet at least one of these goals — new infections or hospitalizations — to avoid being moved back a phase, according to the plan.
Leibrand said the county's vaccination efforts mean those who are especially vulnerable are protected from the worst of the virus.
He said the county is on track to meet the hospitalization metric by the next state evaluation May 3, which would keep it in Phase 3.
About 38.6% of county residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 27.2% are fully vaccinated.
The population driving the increase in cases — those ages 20 to 50 — are less likely to have been vaccinated. However, now that eligibility has been expanded to anyone 16 or older, Leibrand said the younger age groups will begin being vaccinated.
— Reporter Brandon Stone: firstname.lastname@example.org, 360-416-2112, Twitter: @Brandon_SVH