Omicron loosens grip on Whidbey Island

If the data is any indication, Island County has turned the corner on omicron.

If the data is any indication, Island County – and Western Washington as a whole – has turned the corner on omicron.

The COVID-19 variant responsible for the recent inundation of cases peaked around Jan. 19. In Island County, the two-week average case rate per 100,000 from Jan. 13 to Jan. 26 totaled 2,049. Between Jan. 20 and Feb. 2, it dropped to 1,692. Hospitalization rates in the county also appear to have decreased.

Young people accounted for the highest rate of COVID cases during the omicron surge. People in the 12 to 19 age group experienced a spike far above the other age groups in the county.

Dr. Howard Leibrand, the county’s health officer, said this could be because there is a “relatively low” vaccine rate for teenagers. Schools are open and knowledge isn’t the only thing being spread.

Although not ideal, Leibrand said the situation has been tolerable because more at-risk community members in older age groups, such as grandparents, have already been immunized against the virus.

As of Feb. 2, 67.2% of Island County’s population is fully vaccinated.

Despite what some may think, Leibrand said kids aren’t fully protected from catching COVID.

“Social media has pushed this myth that this is a disease that doesn’t affect kids,” he said. “That’s not true.”

He has seen a surge in childhood immunizations during the month of January, including those for COVID-19, although “not as much as there needs to be,” he said.

Barring the emergence of any new variants, Leibrand is hopeful that the pandemic might become endemic this year, meaning the disease would be regulated to manageable clusters, or outbreaks as case rates drop.

He acknowledged that the omicron variant helped create natural immunity in the unvaccinated. Vaccines remain the most reliable method for combatting the virus.

“Omicron is our way of vaccinating those who are unable or willing to get an easy vaccine,” he said.